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Notes: Wings prepare to be without Gustav Nyquist

Forward will have phone hearing with Department of Player Safety Wednesday; Vanek should be ready

by Arthur J. Regner @ArthurJRegner /

DETROIT -- If Tuesday's practice is any indication, the Red Wings seem resigned to being without forward Gustav Nyquist for the immediate future.

Nyquist was not on the Wings' power play, nor was he in his usual spot on Detroit's first line with Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg and Anthony Mantha. Tomas Tatar took Nyquist's place on the Wings' top line.

Nyquist will have will have his hearing before the NHL Players Safety Board on Wednesday, where many have speculated he will be suspended for his high stick to the face of Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon during the first period of Sunday's loss at Minnesota.

"We made preparations in case that happened (Nyquist being suspended)," Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said about Tatar being inserted in Nyquist's place. "Obviously, I don't have control of that (Nyquist's fate). One thing I can't say emphatically enough is I've known Gus a long time and in no way possible was that an intentional act by him. I saw the optics on it, but there is no chance it was an intentional play by him."

When Blashill was asked if he could be called as a character witness during the hearing, he responded, "That's why I'm saying it to you. Anybody that's been around the league, anybody that's played with him, anybody's coached him, they know that. I understand how the optics are and they're going to have to do their jobs, I get that, but without question … you see the reaction as soon as it happened from Gus. Guys that are angry, that's not how they react."

For his part, Nyquist once again reiterated that the high stick was not meant to injure Spurgeon and he was glad Spurgeon returned to the game.

He also hopes he can plead his case to a sympathetic ear.

"I had no intent to high stick him. I'm sure we'll talk about it more after tomorrow," Nyquist said. "We're going to have a discussion. Again, this isn't the player that I am. I haven't been in this situation before. It's new for me. I hope people don't think that's the kind of player that I am.

"It's different and it's not fun. It won't happen again, that's for sure."

Tatar elevated to the top line with Zetterberg and Mantha.

Tatar will be the first to admit he expected more from himself this season, but he remains positive and is excited about being on Detroit's first line if Nyquist is suspended.

"It's my job, I have played with Hank (Zetterberg) and Mo (Mantha) before and we did pretty good," Tatar said. "I think we were separated to get other lines going, which worked. Now that we're playing back together again, I think we can be a real good line as long as we play in the O zone and grind.

"I don't look at it as an opportunity, I look at it to produce more and get points for the whole team."

In 56 games played, Tatar has 12 goals and 14 assists for 26 points and is a minus-6.

He is disappointed with his numbers and feels that the Wings may be pressing a bit because the power play, and to a lesser degree the penalty kill, has been a sore spot for most of the season.

"For sure, I'd be more happy if I had more goals, but the whole team hasn't done well. We all could be better and produce more," Tatar said. "We are last in our conference, we could all play better, but right now I think the special teams are the big difference for us.

"We need to be better on the power play; we need to be better on the PK, because those situations are the difference in a game."

VANEK LIKELY FOR ST. LOUIS: Thomas Vanek returned to practice on Tuesday after missing last Sunday's game against his former team, the Minnesota Wild.

"It sucked," Vanek said about not being able to play against the Wild. "Of course I wanted to play against them and do well, but at the same time close isn't good enough. It's better to have someone out there that's healthier. But yeah it was certainly disappointing."

Vanek injured his ankle last Saturday against Columbus, but after going through a full practice on Tuesday, said he is optimistic he'll be good to go against the Blues Wednesday.

"I felt OK coming back from Columbus," Vanek said. "The next morning I woke up a little stiff. I wanted to play (against Minnesota) but obviously I wasn't quite good enough. I felt pretty good out there today. We'll see how it reacts overnight and we'll make the assessment tomorrow."

Blashill was encouraged by Vanek's return to practice and is cautiously anticipating Vanek's return to Detroit's lineup.

"It's encouraging that he'll be in the position to play tomorrow but we'll know for sure tomorrow," said Blashill, who added that Vanek's return would spark the Red Wings against the Blues.

"No question. Vanek came back after getting hurt in Columbus and created two real big-time chances, maybe three," Blashill said. "He's got the ability to do that, he's been a big piece of our offensive success this year, so if he can play it makes you better. If he can't, we'll have 20 guys good enough to win, we have to go out and execute."

In 43 games played, Vanek has been a potent offensive force for the Wings, notching 14 goals, 22 assists for 36 points and he's a plus-3.

However, since he is only signed through this season, Vanek's name has been constantly brought up as the most likely Wing to be moved at the NHL's trade deadline.

It's something Vanek has had to address throughout the season and Tuesday was no exception.

"Do I like it here? Yeah, I do. Could I see myself staying here? Yeah that would be great but again, it's a business," Vanek said. "I think Kenny's (general manager Ken Holland) got to make a decision. At the same time, if there is a deal to be made it's got to be right on both sides. I've been through it before. Would it surprise me that he would move me if he could get something good? No, not at all; if I was the GM, it would be something I would look at.

"I think it's a good culture here. Are we one of the better teams in the league right now? I don't think so. Are we too far off from getting back in the playoffs and making some noise? I don't think so. Again, I think we're not there but I think this team could get there."

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