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With Franzen out, Tatar looks to benefit

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Tomas Tatar knows he has a great opportunity to impress the Red Wings' coaching staff when he skates among the top six forwards tonight in Boston. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT – With Johan Franzen and Daniel Alfredsson nursing lower-body injuries, Tomas Tatar will get a shot to skate with the Red Wings top six forwards in tonight’s preseason game against the Boston Bruins.

“I think when you play on a top-six line you should have more ice time, so it's going to be a big opportunity,” said Tatar, who is fighting for a regular-season roster spot with the Wings.

Tatar will skate on the second line with center Stephen Weiss and a player who has yet to be named. With Franzen still bothered by a sore hip flexor, the Wings plan to play it safe by holding the big power forward out of tonight’s lineup.

“With two good players, it's going to be fun to play, but I don't think I'm going to play power play tonight. The power play lines were set up differently for tonight,” said Tatar, the Calder Cup playoffs MVP last spring. “But it's going to be fun. I'm real excited to play this game and I heard Boston's crowd is unreal. I never played in Boston in my life.”

Alfredsson is also day to day with a tender groin, general manager Ken Holland said.

With a logjam of forwards still battling it out for roster spots, Tatar, 22, finds himself in the middle with every preseason game meaning so much to his future in Detroit. He can’t be send to the Wings’ minor-league club in Grand Rapids without first clearing waivers, so he knows it’s either make the team or be traded.

In Monday’s 4-1 exhibition win in Pittsburgh, Tatar played on a line with prospects Luke Glendening and Landon Ferraro. Tatar finished with a goal and an assist in nearly 12-minutes of ice time.

“I tried to prepare for the camp really good,” he said. “I was kind of afraid I wouldn't score … but I'm happy I scored already one goal because now I can play with more confidence and I'm just trying not to think about it really. Just try to focus on the game and what to do to have the best position, try to do the little things good and not do turnovers and play good in the D-zone.”

Meanwhile, Franzen skated Thursday morning with the first group at Joe Louis Arena, but is still experiencing a painful hip flexor. Mikael Samuelsson, who wasn’t expected to make the trip to Boston, will replace Franzen in tonight’s lineup.

Franzen and center Darren Helm (groin, lower back) are the only Wings’ regulars not to appear in the first three exhibition games. Helm actually skated for a short period Thursday morning. It was his first time on the ice since he injured the groin on Sept. 6.

Franzen, who has dealt with sore hip flexors before, said he hopes to be ready for Saturday’s preseason home opener against the Bruins.

“I’ve had some similar stuff in the past, but I think it’s usually kept me out like one or two games,” Franzen said. “It’s preseason now. It wouldn’t be an issue if it where a playoff game. If that were the case we wouldn’t even be talking about it. … I really don’t want to risk anything.”

NOTEBOOK: Patrick Eaves was hurt while practicing with the second group on Thursday morning. The veteran forward was working on tip drills in front of the net when Grand Rapids captain Jeff Hoggan crashed into his left leg.

Coach Mike Babcock said, “They’ll check him out and we’ll know tomorrow.”

The Red Wings are taking 20 players to Boston for their game against the defending Eastern Conference champion Bruins. Here are the line combinations and defensive pairings:

Justin AbdelkaderPavel DatsyukHenrik Zetterberg
Dan Cleary – Stephen WeissTomas Tatar
Gustav Nyquist
Joakim AnderssonMikael Samuelsson
Dave McIntyre – Luke GlendeningJordin Tootoo

Niklas Kronwall
Jonathan Ericsson
Danny DeKeyser
Jakub Kindl
Brian Lashoff
Adam Almquist

Jimmy Howard, Tom McCollum

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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