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Nielsen's ratings improve with Wings' fast start

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Frans Nielsen

St. Louis – Some things are the same, but most are different and Frans Nielsen continues to gradually get used to them.

Nielsen spent eight years with the New York Islanders, came up through their system, knew nothing but NHL life as an Islander.

But the Islanders and Nielsen couldn’t agree on a new contract, and when free agency began July 1, the Red Wings moved quickly to sign Nielsen.

“It was a little weird at the beginning,” said Nielsen, speaking about the first few days of being a Red Wing. “It was just getting used to it. But it’s a great group of guys and that has made it easy to come in and feel comfortable that way.

“Everything is more normal, going to the rink with these guys, after 10 years (going to the rink with another team).”

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Nielsen, 32, signed a 6-year contract worth $31.5 million to basically replace Pavel Datsyuk in the lineup and provide a two-way presence.

Not necessarily be Datsyuk, few, if any players, could do that.

But supply effective play as one of the top-two centers and be a key figure on both special teams.

So far, the offense has been a little slow coming, as Nielsen has only three points (one goal, two assists) in seven games heading into Thursday's game in St. Louis.

But in every other area, Nielsen has basically been as advertised. Quietly effective.

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

Blashill sees this situation as similar to what defenseman Mike Green went through last season, coming over from Washington.

Green seems fully adjusted and comfortable this season, after going through a down year by his standards.

“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.”

Nielsen enjoyed his time in the Islanders organization.

“When you’re with a team for so long, it doesn’t feel like a job,” Nielsen said. “As a player, you have a connection to everything. The team means so much to you, the fans, and it all becomes a part of you.

“New York meant a lot to me because I had been there so long.”

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Nielsen sees an easy transition to the Red Wings organization.

“Like I said, a great group of guys,” Nielsen said. “There’s a lot of different stuff (system-wise) but they do a good job of helping me, always talking to me and it helps so much.

“For sure I make mistakes out there, I’m thinking too much a little sometimes because you want to get the system right. But it’s coming, and it’s a fun system to play, a really fast-paced game.

“Once I start getting it, it’s going to be a real good fit for my game.”

But, at least for a little while longer, Nielsen will check the Islanders score to see how his old team is doing.

“There are guys I’ve played with for a lot of years, I got close friends there, the coaching staff I had my whole (NHL) life, it’s a lot of people I know,” Nielsen said. “You keep notice of how they’re doing.”

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

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