The Red Wings practiced today after last night's defeat at the hands of the Washington Capitals. The Wings, as is becoming a troubling habit, were unable to generate much offense and could only score a single goal against the Caps.
Normally we look to practices to give us an idea of lines and defense pairings, but some good news came out of today's session:
Per Blashill, decision on if Brad Richards plays will be made Friday. If yes, will be winger on line with Pavel Datsyuk & Teemu Pulkkinen.— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) November 19, 2015
Richards indicated that he feels ready to go, but is waiting for medical clearance before officially rejoining the lineup. Those yielded some interesting lines:
Lines: Abdelkader-Zetterberg-Larkin Richards-Datsyuk-Pulkkinen Tatar-Sheahan-Nyquist Miller-Glendening-Helm— Ansar Khan (@AnsarKhanMLive) November 19, 2015
Should Richards come back on Friday, that will necessitate a roster move to clear up a spot. Jeff Blashill confirmed what many of us feared would happen:
Per Blashill, Andreas Athanasiou will be returned to Grand Rapids— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) November 19, 2015
Unfortunately, Athanasiou is the easiest forward to send back to Grand Rapids due to his waiver-exempt status. This move is likely not going to sit well with fans, as AA had not looked out of place in his short stint with the Wings. The question would become who to remove if AA stays in Detroit. The answer many fans would give is likely Joakim Andersson, who has only gotten into 11 of the Wings' 19 games and is usually a healthy scratch. However, Andersson is already not playing, so the real question is who comes out of the lineup to make room for Richards while allowing Athanasiou to stay? Luke Glendening would be a popular choice, but it's hard not to look at Drew Miller as the odd man out. Miller has one assist in 15 games this year, and he's a possession black hole. Worse, he's not making his linemates better. The only positive to having Miller on the ice comes on the PK, and there's a case to be made that Athanasiou at least deserves a look to see if he can fill that role at the NHL level. However, that won't happen yet, and Athanasiou will try to take what he's learned in the NHL and get even better in the AHL. The forwards weren't the only area where changes are coming. Blashill announced that everyone's favorite defenseman should be back on Friday:
Blashill said they're planning on Smith playing tomorrow.— Ansar Khan (@AnsarKhanMLive) November 19, 2015
Smith has been bothered with illness over the last week, but it sounds like he's healthy and ready to go. Should he be inserted back in the lineup, it's likely that Jakub Kindl would come out, despite Kindl's improved play since being paired with Alexey Marchenko. However, Marchenko has been even better and looks to have earned his spot. Finally, for the first time all season, we're not going to see Jimmy Howard open up a set of back-to-back games:
Petr Mrazek starting Friday for Wings vs LA, 2nd straight start. First time in 10 games Blashill has not flipped goalies game to game.— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) November 19, 2015
Petr Mrazek will get the start Friday against LA while Jimmy Howard will go against St. Louis on Saturday. It's not clear whether this is just Blashill mixing things up or if he's rewarding Mrazek with a second-straight start after some strong performances by him over the last couple of weeks.
UPDATE: The Wings made it official when they announced that Andreas Athanasiou has been returned to Grand Rapids. The bigger news is that Johan Franzen has officially been placed on LTIR, as it's apparent his concussion symptoms haven't abated at all. The move allows the Wings to gain a little extra cushion under the cap, but with Kyle Quincey several weeks away that shouldn't be an issue unless a trade is made.