DETROIT — Frans Nielsen was Doug Weight’s teammate and locker-room neighbor for three seasons and Nielsen learned a lot from his old teammate/assistant coach. So Nielsen, in his first season as a Red Wing, isn’t surprised to see the Islanders playing well with Weight in charge as interim head coach.
“He has a ton of respect in that room,” Nielsen said before Tuesday’s game. “Everyone knows what he’s done as a player. Even as assistant coach, when he comes in the room, guys look him in the eye, they know what he’s saying is right. They know what kind of guy he is — he’s a guy you really want to play hard for. Besides being a good hockey guy and a smart guy, he’s an incredible guy away from the ice. You can see them playing hard for him. They want him to succeed. It’s been fun to see that.”
Nielsen departed the Islanders on July 1 for a five-year, $30 million deal with the Wings, who have put their 25-season playoff appearance streak in serious jeopardy. They entered Tuesday’s game coming off impressive weekend wins over the Capitals and Penguins, but the always-candid Nielsen wasn’t impressed.
“It’s a start, but we’ve shown signs of what we can do all year. We’ve just been so inconsistent,” he said. “We’ve done this before, played some good games and then come out just flat. It’s a little better feeling, beating two pretty good teams, but we’ve done it before and for some reason, we stop doing it.”
It’s been an odd month for Cal Clutterbuck, who returned to action on Tuesday after missing the past nine games with a lower-body injury.
He initially suffered a different lower-body injury in Carolina on Jan. 14 and sat out the next three. Clutterbuck played two games after that, then left the last game before the All-Star break, on Jan. 26 against the Canadiens, after two periods as a precaution. But here in Joe Louis Arena on Feb. 3, he played just a few shifts before another injury sidelined him until Tuesday.
“It’s been pretty annoying, to be honest,” he said before the game. “It happened twice when I thought I was 100 percent. So we had to sit back and really reevaluate it for a while, just to make sure.”
Clutterbuck slid back into his usual spot with Nikolay Kulemin and Casey Cizikas while Stephen Gionta, who played well with three assists in the last five games, took a seat.