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Pittsburgh – Maybe it was fitting that the middle of Trevor Daley Week would be in Pittsburgh.

The Daley celebration tour began Sunday in Toronto – where Daley was born and grew up, and where he played his 1,000th NHL game – and then Thursday moved to Pittsburgh, where Daley won two Stanley Cups with the Penguins.

The week will culminate on Saturday when the Wings are in Dallas, where Daley spent the first 10 years of his career.

Daley couldn’t have asked for a better schedule.

“Just the way I told them to put it on the calendar,” said Daley, with a big laugh, after Thursday’s morning skate. “I don’t know what to tell you.”

More: Red Wings brace for back-to-back challenges out of holiday break

It certainly couldn’t have been more special Sunday, as Daley has numerous friends and family in attendance while he played game No. 1,000.

Afterward, Daley was overwhelmed with the response he received through texts and social media from friends and ex-teammates.

“It was nice to see the people that came through with text messages,” Daley said. “Just the teammates and ex-players, the guys along the way, it just shows what type of game we get to play every day. We have some amazing people and that’s something, when we get focused on wins and losses, when you get a chance to sit back and think about the people you’ve been with along the way, the friends you made, this game is pretty special.”

Many former teammates reached out and extended congratulations on the milestone. But a few stood out, specifically former Dallas teammate (and ex-Red Wing) Steve Ott.

“Me and Steve Ott are real tight and I got to talk to him after he left me a nice video message,” Daley said. “But so many guys, I think of everyone who had a part in it. Some of them (the phone numbers), I didn’t even know who they were, I had to ask.”

Many of those friends are still in Pittsburgh. Whenever the Wings go to Pittsburgh, Daley remembers all the success, including the Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017.

“Definitely the friendships,” Daley said of what most stands out. “Obviously to get the job done, the Stanley Cups, to do it back-to-back with a lot of those guys over here.”

Athanasiou ready to go

Forward Andreas Athanasiou returned to the lineup after missing the last two games with an upper-body injury.

Athanasiou took part in the morning skate and felt ready to go, especially after having three days off.

“The last couple of days definitely helped,” said Athanasiou, who fell awkwardly in the Dec. 20 game against Carolina.

Athanasiou took part in the pre-game skate Saturday against Florida but felt something grab.

“I tweaked something a little bit and it was grabbing me; there was a little bit of soreness,” Athanasiou said. “It feels pretty good now. But it just didn’t feel right and I didn’t think I would be much help if it was grabbing me during the game. I just wanted to be sure I was ready to go.”

Darren Helm took part in Thursday’s morning skate and will practice Friday. But coach Jeff Blashill said Helm will not play Saturday in Dallas.

“He’s going to skate the next few days and we’ll see where he is,” Blashill said. “You won’t know until you test it a little bit more. But he’s inching closer, based on the fact he’s out there with us now.”

Helm injured his arm on a collision along the boards Nov. 17 in New Jersey and has missed the last 19 games.

Nice break

The NHL is unique in that it closes down the regular season Dec. 24-26 – no games, no practices, nothing.

Players and coaches agree it’s a great thing.

“It’s always nice to get home and see family anytime you get the opportunity,” Athanasiou said. “I’m sure everyone likes to make the most of it and spend as much time as they can.”

Forward Justin Abdelkader said players appreciate the time off.

“It’s not like it was a week off; we had good energy during the skate today,” Abdelkader said. “All the guys are in the same boat, the other team has been off too.

“With the short flight (to Pittsburgh), the league has done a good job of making sure teams play in close proximity.

“It’s nice to get the opportunity to spend time with family this time of year.”

Blashill said Christmas has always been special in his family.

“It’s the only holiday that’s been a big deal in my adult life, with the fact the rest of them are kind of engulfed with hockey,” Blashill said. “It gives us a chance to get away for a couple of days and be with your families, at a time when it’s important to be with families.”

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter @tkulfan

 

 

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