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Red Wings' turnaround begins with power play

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Red Wings center Darren Helm will be part of one of the team's two power-play units.

Detroit – One reason the Red Wings believe they can turn around their season is because they feel they can turn around the power play.

The unit was ranked last, 30th out of 30 teams, at the All-Star break with a success rate of 11.1 percent (18 of 162).

On the road, the Red Wings have scored a stunning four goals in 70 power play chances (5.7 percent).

Coach Jeff Blashill has talked about a lack of confidence on the power play the last couple days coming out of the All-Star break, but believes the confidence can be earned.

Red Wings optimistic about uphill climb to playoffs

“You have to earn your confidence,” Blashill said. “Just like a player, when you are confident, things are going well and when you’re not confident, it makes it a lot harder.

“We’ve made a lot of unforced errors as a unit that, to me, speaks just a lack of confidence on it.

“Hopefully we get a refresher here from the All-Star break. We’ve worked on a couple of different things but those won’t make or break it. What will make or break it is when we’re in the zone, we play with confidence and we’re able to get pucks to the net and get them back.”

Blashill has tweaked with personnel on the power play all season, and for Tuesday’s game, appears to have settled on forward Darren Helm on one of the two power-play units because of Helm’s ability to retrieve pucks and maintain possession.

“You have to get pucks to the net and you have to retrieve them and we haven’t done a good enough job of retrieving them,” Blashill said. “He’s a guy who can do a good job of retrieving them. If you look back a couple years ago, he was somebody who was on it (the power play) regularly for that specific reason.

“He’s great at getting back on pucks.”

'Special' weekend

Frans Nielsen participated in Tuesday’s morning skate after spending the weekend in Los Angeles as the Red Wings’ lone representative in the All-Star Game.

It was his first appearance in the mid-season game, and Nielsen was still glowing about the opportunity.

Friday’s social event, with the present day stars mingling with the top 100 players of all time as selected by the NHL, was Nielsen’s favorite part of the weekend.

“It was real special,” Nielsen said. “There was not one guy missing from the top 100, so it was cool to see all these guys you loved watching as a little kid and suddenly they’re all there, and you could talk to a few of them.

“It was a real cool experience, just being on the ice, too, there was just so much. I was so happy I got to (experience it).”

Who was the one former player Nielsen was glad he got to meet?

“Brett Hull,” said Nielsen, of the prolific goal-scorer on the Red Wings’ 2002 Stanley Cup team. “You guys know him from here a little bit. I really liked him as a kid. There was a reception right before the big show (Friday) and I walked down the stairs and he was right there, so I got to talk to him and say hello. It was pretty cool.

“There were so many guys you wanted to talk to, but it was really cool for sure. If I only get to play in one (All-Star Game) I picked the right one.”

Ice chips

Dylan Larkin was activated off the seven-day injured list after missing two games with an upper body injury. Drew Miller was sent down to Grand Rapids to make room for Larkin on the roster.

…Justin Abdelkader has two assists (no goals) in nine games since returning to the lineup, after missing a month with a knee injury.

“It’s hard, you don’t just get back into it most of the time and just go,” Blashill said. “Somebody like Helm, who plays a lot on energy, it’s a little bit easier. But with Abs, it’s a process.

“He’s had some good games for us since he’s been back, but like the rest of us, we all have to continue to work to be as consistent as possible.”

...Defenseman Brendan Smith (knee) could possibly return this weekend, Blashill said.

“We won’t play him back to back, but it would be one of those games,” said Blashill of Smith, who has been out since Jan. 4. “We’ll know more Thursday, but he’s a possibility.”

…Blashill said goalie Jimmy Howard (knee) will play one or two conditioning games in Grand Rapids, but Blashill wouldn’t have a further update until Thursday since the Red Wings are off Wednesday.

Twitter: @tkulfan