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What a comeback return for Weiss

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Stephen Weiss scored two goals on two shots, propelling the Red Wings to a 4-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT Stephen Weiss was just feeling fortunate to be back in the lineup when the Red Wings hosted the Ottawa Senators Monday night.

Playing a position unfamiliar to the 13-year veteran, Weiss did what good hockey players do – he went to the net and was rewarded.

“It’s still a little strange, there’s no doubt about it,” the veteran center said about playing wing on Darren Helm’s line. “I’ve got some work to do on the boards and stuff like that. But when you play with these types of players it doesn’t make it that hard. Helmer has a lot of speed and makes up for my mistakes, and I thought (Tomas Jurco) played really well and it was fun.”

Weiss’s two even-strength goals less than five minutes apart in the second period built a three-goal cushion for the Red Wings, who held off a late surge by the Senators for a 4-3 win at Joe Louis Arena.

In the past 30 months, injuries limited Weiss’s effectiveness and sideline him for most of the past two seasons. A wrist injury followed by a series of groin issues – which required surgeries in both cases – held his production to three goals in 44 games. He scored two goals in 27 games as a Red Wing since last season, his first of a five-year contract that he signed with the team in July 2013.

But Monday, Weiss collected his first two goals at The Joe in a Wings uniform.

“It’s amazing. All the guys are extremely happy for him,” coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s been struggling with injuries so it’s great to have him back in the lineup and he was extremely effective for us. It was good to see.”

Weiss’s first goal at 13:34 of the middle frame gave the Wings a two-goal cushion. It was his first NHL goal since Oct. 14, 2013 at Boston.

“It felt good, it really did,” said Weiss, playing in his first NHL game since a successful rehabilitation assignment with AHL Grand Rapids last weekend.

“I was a little shaky after that on the bench, but it was good to get a couple pucks laying around there for me tonight, nice to see them go in,” Weiss added. “Our line played hard, didn’t have a ton of looks out there, but it was nice to get a couple of goals and get some confidence going.”

Weiss has four goals in his past three games. He scored a goal in each of his two games during the rehab stint with the Griffins.

His second goal Monday, which was career point No. 400 in 681 NHL games, had Weiss thinking bigger.

“After the second one I wanted the third one," Weiss said. "I said, ‘This might be my night.’ Again, it’s nice to get a couple of bounces around the net. A lot of times those pucks go away from you, and when they pop right on your stick and go in it’s a nice feeling.”

Weiss now hopes that Monday’s performance is just the start of good things to come for the veteran centerman.

“It’s been a tough go here,” he said. “It’s not what I envisioned when I came here two summers ago. But you can’t control these types of things, other than just wanting to stick it out with the injury last year and not wanting to come out of the lineup, I probably screwed myself over a little bit, and paid the price for it. But hopefully this snowballs in my direction.”

Something that definitely has been working in the Red Wings’ favor lately is their power play. Again Monday, the special teams unit set the tone for the Red Wings, erasing the Senators’ 1-0 lead when Gustav Nyquist scored late in the first period, and Riley Sheahan scored early in the second.

Nyquist now has a team-high 10 goals and six power-play goals, which equals his man-advantage total from last season. The Red Wings are 4-0-1 when Nyquist scores a power-play goal this season.

Center Luke Glendening played a key role in the first-period goal, beating Kyle Turris on the draw, getting the puck back to Niklas Kronwall at the point. From there Nyquist mopped up a rebound in the low slot from Henrik Zetterberg’s initial shot from inside the blue line.

The Red Wings have scored two power-play goals six times since Oct. 31. They’ve gone 12-for-40 in the past nine games, which is a 30 percent success rate. Detroit scored two or more PPGs in 10 games all of last season. Prior to Oct. 31, Detroit was 3-for-34 on the power play.

“We created a lot of chances,” said Nyquist, of the power play that went 2 for 6. “I thought the second and third, we didn't take care of the puck as well as we did in the first, so something we want to talk about. But at the start it was pretty good.”

Now that Weiss seemingly has turned the corner, Babcock would like to see the veteran return to his point production of old.

“The guy’s got 60 points in the league a ton of times. That doesn’t happen by accident,” Babcock said. “But in your career, when you get hurt and you miss a couple of years, there’s no guarantee you’re getting it back. … We acquired him initially because we thought he could help us score and he spent two years on IR basically. Hopefully he can get his confidence back and get going.”

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