Red Wings’ Frans Nielsen relieved to be back on the ice

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Frans Nielsen

Detroit – There was a sense of excitement, but also relief, for Frans Nielsen as he took part in Sunday morning’s Red Wings practice at Belfor Training Center.

Nielsen hadn’t been on the ice since getting slammed in the head March 6 by Boston’s David Backes. Nielsen had concussion symptoms, so he’s been going through the protocol, and must pass the tests along the way before he’s ready to play again.

So to get back on the ice, be part of the team again, for one of the NHL’s most durable players, was very rewarding.

“It’s never fun,” said Nielsen of being hurt, and away from his teammates. “This was quick, but I’ve had a couple where I’ve been out longer and it’s really tough. When you’re not around the guys, you don’t really feel part of the team.

“This was hopefully, just a quick one, and I’ll be good to go to on the (West Coast) trip and be with them.”

Nielsen was on the stationary bike Friday and had an intense workout Saturday, before taking part in Sunday’s practice.

“Today was the first day on the ice, so I’ve had three really good days now, so yes, it’s going in the right direction,” Nielsen said. “I’m feeling fine, actually.”

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Nielsen wasn’t feeling as good after being hit by Backes, who nailed Nielsen near the boards, high, with Nielsen’s head absorbing much of the impact. Backes was given a three-game suspension by the NHL for the hit.

“It didn’t look good” said Nielsen of the collision. “But he plays a physical game and I have no reason to believe he tried to hit my head like that. He plays a hard game and unfortunately he caught me the way he did.

“It happens sometimes.”

Nielsen had a “little bit of a headache” but never experienced other concussion symptoms such as sensitivity to light or dizziness.

“I’ve been OK, but we played it a little bit safe, just make sure there was nothing,” Nielsen said. “I can remember everything, I haven’t had any memory loss.”

Nielsen took part in some drills Sunday, but will be kept away from any battle drills until, possibly, Monday in San Jose for the morning skate.

“I went in (Saturday) with Piet (trainer Piet Van Zant) and had a good workout, it went well, so he said let’s skate (Sunday) and see how that feels,” Nielsen said. “Sometimes when you have a lot of traffic in front of your eyes and stuff is going on, you can feel it.

“But it felt good again. I definitely hope I can play on this trip.”

There certainly will be opportunities, as the Red Wings complete what will be a rigorous stretch of 10 of 11 games on the road.

The Red Wings are at San Jose Monday, Los Angeles Thursday, Anaheim Friday and Colorado Sunday – as Little Caesars Arena hosts the NCAA basketball regionals – before returning home.

Coach Jeff Blashill hopes to have the dependable two-way forward at some point of this trip.

“It’s good that he seems to be progressing fast here,” Blashill said. “He won’t be ready for (Monday), but certainly I’d be happy to have him back in the lineup.”

On the road again

The Red Wings began this road stretch Friday in Columbus, but returned home, took a day off, then practiced Sunday before heading to the airport.

This has been a rugged part of the schedule – everyone knew it would be when the schedule first came out – and with the playoffs unlikely, it can make the travel more of a grind.

“Nobody is going to be perfect, that’s the reality,” Blashill said. “Our job is to push for perfection and when you’re pushing for it you have that understanding that you’ll probably never going to reach it but you get to that highest level along the way.

“Our guys have done a good job of that. We have real good leadership in here and young guys who want to get better and keep working.”

Playing against teams who are all in the playoff hunt, and desperately need wins, should make for intense games.

“It’s great that we’re going to play against some teams that are in a mode where there’s a high level of urgency,” Blashill said. “They need to get points, we need to get points, so let’s make sure to go out there and make sure our urgency level is high.”

Red Wings at Sharks

Faceoff: 10:30 p.m. Monday, SAP Center, San Jose, California

TV/radio: FSD/97.1FM

Outlook: San Jose (36-23-9, 81 points) is clinging to second place in the Pacific Division but has three teams within three points of them. … The Sharks are only 5-4-1 in their last 10 games. … D Brent Burns (53 points) and C Joe Pavelski (18 goals, 53 points) lead offensively.