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Notes: Wings looking to put winning streak together

Dylan Larkin returns after missing two games, Drew Miller heading to Grand Rapids

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT - There is no time like the present.

For the Red Wings, there is very little time to get back into the playoff picture with only 33 games remaining.

The bad news is the Wings are eighth in the Atlantic Division with 49 points in 49 games.

The good news is they are only seven points behind the third-place Boston Bruins.

"When you go to the All-Star break and come back, everyone knows you're headed downhill," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "We still have a number of games left but you're starting to head downhill. Guys are excited to get back after it. They have a good break and let's get back after it. We know we got to hit the ground running here. Jersey knows they have to hit the ground running, so it's going to be two real competitive teams tonight and it should be a good hockey game."

The Wings' opponent tonight, the New Jersey Devils, find themselves in a similar spot, in eighth place in the Metropolitan Division with 49 points in 50 games.

Although the Wings ended on a sour note before the break, losing 4-0 to the Toronto Maple Leafs, they felt like they had been doing better.

"We got to find a way to be consistent here," said Frans Nielsen, fresh off the All-Star Game. "Taking away the Toronto game, I think we played some good hockey down until the break here. We weren't winning all of them but we were getting points on the board most nights. Now we just got a find a way to string a streak together and see if we can catch those teams ahead of us."

POWER PLAY: There's no question that one thing that could help the Wings get to where they want to go is getting the power play going.

"We're last in the league and we know about it," Tomas Tatar said. "We have to be better. You want to climb to at least the top 15. That would give you a chance to be in the playoffs as well."

It's been a source of consternation all season as the Wings are last with the man-advantage at 11.1 percent.

"No. 1, it's confidence," Blashill said. "You have to earn your confidence, but I think just like a player, when you're real confident things are going well and when you're not confident sometimes it makes it a lot harder. We've made a lot of unforced errors as a unit that to me speaks to a lack of confidence on it. So hopefully we get a refresher from the All-Star break. We've worked on a couple different things but those won't make or break it. What'll make or break it is making sure when we're in the zone we play with lots of confidence and we're able to get pucks to the net and get them back. That's the key. It's not just shooting it, it's shooting and getting it back that's the key."

To that end, Blashill has Darren Helm on a power-play unit with Frans Nielsen, Tatar, Justin Abdelkader and Niklas Kronwall.

"The reason for that is you have to get pucks on the net and have to retrieve them," Blashill said. "We haven't done a good enough job retrieving them and he's somebody that can do a really good job retrieving them. If you look back a couple years ago, he was somebody that was on it regularly for that specific purpose."

Abdelkader serves as the net-front presence for that group.

"For our unit we got to make sure we put pucks in there and make them do their job in front," Nielsen said. "Abby is a big body in front there and we got to just get pucks in there and hopefully we will get some bounces and build some confidence that way."

The other power-play unit has Gustav Nyquist, Henrik Zetterberg, Thomas Vanek, Anthony Mantha and Mike Green.

"I think sometimes when things aren't going well, you really got to dig down," Green said. "We're there now, it's halfway through the season and we really got to dig ourselves out. It starts with the simple things though too, we can't try to do too much. That's when you kind of fall back into that hole. We've been working on it a lot, we've been talking about it a lot so we'll figure it out here."

LARKIN BACK, MILLER TO GR: Dylan Larkin, who missed the final two games before the All-Star break with an upper-body injury, is set to return against the Devils.

"I feel good," Larkin said after Tuesday's morning skate. "I'm excited to get back."

Since Larkin is coming off of 7-day injured reserve, that means room has to be made on the roster for him.

Blashill said Drew Miller would be sent to the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins.

Miller was originally placed on waivers Jan. 22, cleared the following day and was assigned to Grand Rapids but stayed with the Wings because of the injuries to Larkin and Thomas Vanek, who missed one game.

SMITH, HOWARD UPDATES: Jimmy Howard (knee) will be heading to Grand Rapids for some rehabilitation starts but Blashill said they have not yet determined which games he will play.

Defenseman Brendan Smith, out since Jan. 5 with a knee injury, has been practicing regularly and is almost ready to return.

"We're hoping Smitty this weekend," Blashill said. "We won't play him back to back, so we're hoping one of those games. I'll know more on that Thursday as well, but he's a possibility."

NEILSEN ALL-STAR WEEKEND: Nielsen flew back from Los Angeles to Detroit after an eventful All-Star weekend.

"I think Friday night was really special," Nielsen said. "It was not one guy missing from the top 100 pretty much. It was cool to see all these guys you grew up watching as a little kid and suddenly they're all there and you got to talk to a few of them. It was a really cool experience. Just being on the ice, too, it was just so much.

"If I only get to play one, I picked the right one."

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