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Drew Miller still looking for first goal against Ryan

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit – Drew Miller never has scored a goal against his brother, Ryan, but there was that time against Buffalo two seasons ago that stands out.

"I assisted on (Darren) Helm's goal that got him pulled," said Drew Miller, who'll see Ryan in a Vancouver Canucks uniform Sunday for the first time. "I don't think he's happy about that."

The Miller brothers, both from East Lansing and Michigan State, are established NHL players and have had long, successful careers. But they still look forward to facing each other -- just twice a season.

"It's still fun, something that's pretty unique, playing against your brother," Drew Miller said. "There's no real trash talk, maybe just a jab at each other here and there when you can. The family enjoys it. There will be a lot of friends and family at the game.

"For us, it's fun, but it blends to being another game, too."

Ryan Miller signed with the Canucks as an unrestricted free agent last summer and has been a key reason in Vancouver's unexpected rise to the top of the Western Conference standings. Miller ranks among the league leaders in victories (15) and shutouts (three). His 15-3-0 record, with 2.32 goals-against average and .914 save percentage, shows the elite level at which Miller has played.

"Miller has given them real solid goaltending," coach Mike Babcock said.

The move to Vancouver may have been re-energizing for his brother, said Drew, after a lengthy stay in Buffalo and a short (but unsuccessful) stop in St. Louis, where the Blues were eliminated in the first-round of the playoffs.

"For sure," Drew Miller said. "Definitely it's (Vancouver) been a stop that's been hard on goalies in the past. But the start for him has been good, so good for him. In his career, he needed a change. He was able to pick where he wanted to go in free agency and hopefully he can settle in there."

Smith close

Brendan Smith (infected hand) practiced Saturday and could rejoin the lineup against the Canucks. General manager Ken Holland said the team will make sure Smith is able to play Sunday morning but doctors already have cleared Smith.

"I feel like I'm ready," Smith said.

If Smith is cleared to play, the Red Wings likely will send defenseman Xavier Ouellet back to Grand Rapids.

Ouellet scored his first goal in Friday's 5-4 shootout victory over New Jersey and has a plus-3 rating in five games.

"X has done a great job; obviously that hasn't been an issue," Babcock said. "It's important to get Smitty back in there playing. He's a competitive guy who can really help.

"We know what we have. He's (Ouellet) an NHL defenseman, no question about it."

Ouellet will be disappointed if he's sent down but feels he's benefited from the experience.

"Every opportunity I have, I need to be good, I need to show every time I can play," Ouellet said. "I think I've been doing that. Now it's up to them. We'll see what happens.

"It's been a real good experience for me, a learning process being around these guys. It's a good thing for my career."

Line shuffling

Babcock reunited Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg on the same line in practice with Justin Abdelkader. Babcock said he'll determine Sunday if he stays with that line.

Riley Sheahan centered Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist, while Stephen Weiss was between Darren Helm and Johan Franzen.

The Drew Miller, Luke Glendening and Tomas Jurco line remained the same.

"We can spread it out more than we used to," said Babcock of the Red Wings' offensive depth currently. "We have more players battling for the top six forward jobs."

Canucks at Red Wings

Faceoff: 2 p.m. Sunday, Joe Louis Arena, Detroit

TV/radio: FSD/97.1

Records: Canucks 16-6-1, 33 points; Red Wings 13-5-5, 31 points

outlook: It's the first game between the teams this season. … Both teams are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. …C Henrik Sedin (22 points) and LW Daniel Sedin (21 points) are leading the Canucks offensively.