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Wings' Ott a 'character,' sticks up for teammates

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Detroit center Steve Ott moves the puck up the ice ahead of Carolina center Victor Rask in the first period.

Detroit — This was one of those instances of why the Red Wings signed Steve Ott last summer.

When Carolina forward Viktor Stalberg pushed Mike Green into the boards Tuesday, with Green in a defenseless position, Ott was right there to confront Stalberg.

Nobody was going to take advantage of Ott’s teammates.

“I liked the way Otter came in and stood up for his teammate,” said Dylan Larkin after the Red Wings' 4-2 victory. “That’s something you’re seeing from us, that we’re sticking together. A guy like Otter, especially, is going to do that, (and) send a message when he’s on the ice not to do that.

“He’s had a huge impact,” Larkin said. “He’s out there battling, he got his first point (an assist Tuesday). He meshes well with Glennie (Luke Glendening) and Millsie (Drew Miller).

“Then you get him in the locker room and he’s a character. He’s just as valuable as anyone our team. He doesn’t wear a letter but he’s for sure a leader.”

Many fans were perplexed by the Red Wings’ decision to sign Ott to a 1-year free agent contract worth $800,000 on July 1.

But the veteran has shown early in the season the variables on and off the ice that make him a valuable addition.

“Otter brings lots of things to the table,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “Some are intangibles, more in the room, in the energy he brings. But we’ve talked a lot about sticking up for each other and he did a good job in that situation.

“The thing about Otter is, he’s a really good player. He can play in his own end, he can play in the other end, grinding, he’s a real smart player. He wins faceoffs, a good penalty killer.

“With guys that have been around, they know how to play and they know how to keep leads and the puck moving in the right direction. They also, with that line (Ott, Glendening, Miller) in particular, they relish that role and there are a lot of guys who don’t want that role (and) are not happy with that role; team chemistry isn’t good when they’re in that role. Our chemistry has been good because they relish their role and that’s real important.”

Double-A, Larkin ignite Wings in 5th straight win

Said forward Justin Abdelkader: “You want that veteran presence, guys that have been there, been through the grind, and know how to handle adversity in different situations that come up.”

For his part, Ott felt the play with Green and Stalberg simply needed to be addressed.

“I thought Greener was a little bit vulnerable,” Ott said. “They evened up the call. Collectively we all have the same response in this dressing room — we try to take care of each other as best as possible on the ice.

“It’s early in the season. But those things, through 82 games, you want to get them installed as quick as possible and let it be known that a team sticks up for each other.”

Thursday in St. Louis, Ott goes up against the team he was with for nearly the last three seasons. It was a close-knit team with a lot of friendships built, but don’t expect Ott to play timidly.

“I had a lot of bad blood with a lot of those St. Louis guys before I got there and (they) became some of my closest friends in the league,” Ott said. “I’ll play my way and if I didn’t play my way, they would be disappointed in me as much as I would be disappointed in myself.”

Abdelkader practices, uncertain for Blues

Abdelkader (middle body) took part in Wednesday's practice but nobody was quite sure whether he’d be able to play against the Blues.

Abdelkader missed the last two games with a mid-body injury.

“It started in the home opener and it was just kind of one of those things I thought with some rest I could still play through,” Abdelkader said. “But I came to a point where I needed some time off.”

How Abdelkader feels at Thursday’s morning skate will likely determine his availability.

Ice chips

The Blues reached the Western Conference Finals last season and are off to a good start (4-2-1) behind veteran coach Ken Hitchcock.

“It’s a great challenge,” Blashill said. “We’ve taken steps over the last three games. But it’s a relentless league and we talk about taking 10,000 steps forward throughout the season. It’ll be good for us to measure ourselves against the best and see where we stand.”

Krupa: Wings scrap their turn-the-other-cheek persona

…Niklas Kronwall (knee) participated in Wednesday’s practice, but a return is still unclear. Kronwall has yet to play this season.

…Frans Nielsen is off to a quiet start offensively (three points in seven games) but Blashill likes what he’s seen in other areas than offense.

“Frans was a huge part of the Islanders organization for a long time and essentially grew up in that organization,” Blashill said. “Things change and you have to learn where you fit in the room, and learn playing styles and you’re not 100 percent comfortable.

“He’s been excellent for us in a lot of ways. He makes a lot of good little plays both offensively and defensively. His game will get better as he gets more comfortable.”

Red Wings at Blues

Faceoff: 8 p.m., Thursday

TV/radio: FSD, 97.1

Outlook: The Blues (4-2-1, 9 points) are coming off an ugly 4-1 loss to Calgary at home…The Blues have the fifth ranked penalty kill (91.3 percent) and seventh ranked power play (25.9 percent)…RW Vladimir Tarasenko (4 goals, 4 assists) is off to a good start, but G Jake Allen (.896 save percentage) is not.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

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