-- It's a good thing they're in the middle of a long stretch of home games, because the Detroit Red Wings
seem to be hot in the Motor City regardless of who suits up for them.
They've won the last three games at Joe Louis Arena to set the NHL's all-time record for consecutive home wins (21) without starting goalie Jimmy Howard
[broken finger] or right wing Danny Cleary
[fluid on knee] -- and now they'll play the Nashville Predators
on Friday without star forward Henrik Zetterberg
"He hurt himself first shift of last game," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said after Thursday's practice, which didn't include Zetterberg. "[It's a] lower-body injury and we'll go day-to-day. I don't think it's the end of the world here."
filled in at Zetterberg's second-line center spot between Valtteri Filppula
and Jiri Hudler
, and Babcock said that's how they will line up to start against the Predators.
Detroit will also call up rookie forward Tomas Tatar
, who will play on the fourth line with rookie center Cory Emmerton
in the middle and veteran Tomas Holmstrom
on the right wing.
Fellow rookie forward Jan Mursak
will likely bump up from the fourth line to Cleary's spot at right wing on the third line with center Darren Helm
and left wing Drew Miller
to round out Detroit's forward lines.
"It's an opportunity [for Tatar]," Babcock said. "We're going to bring up Tatar and put him in the lineup. He's been playing real well down there, the best player in Grand Rapids. We like to reward guys who are playing good."
The 22-year old Tatar has 13 goals and 26 assists for the Grand Rapids Griffins in his third season playing in the American Hockey League. What does Babcock remember of Tatar from training camp?
"Well, not a whole bunch," Babcock said. "He's going to play on the fourth line and he's got to be safe and he's got to be responsible and physical and greasy and hard to play against."
As for Zetterberg -- who's scored goals in back-to-back games and in three of the last four contests -- the injury could just be one game or it could take even longer to heal. No timetable for a return has been decided yet.
"Everything can be longer than a game," Babcock said. "Day-to-day on a groin can be 10 days, and he doesn't have a groin problem. He's got a lower-body problem, so we'll see. Looks like he's walking around good. Maybe he just wanted a day off, I don't know. Just kidding."
Zetterberg is taking it in stride, but is disappointed mostly because he'd seemingly broken out of a season-long offensive scoring funk. He's upped his goal tally from 9 to 12 in less than a week's time, and said prior to Tuesday's game that the season's "dog days" in February didn't feel like a grind this year.
"It's kind of bad timing," he said. "I was starting to feel good again and this happened. Day-to-day today, we'll put it like that for today and then see tomorrow."
Zetterberg said he hasn't had an MRI or other diagnostic tests done on the injured body part at this point and didn't rule out participating in Saturday's outdoor practice that's part of the Wings' "24 Hours of Hockey" event to help celebrate the "Hockey in America Weekend."
As for Cleary, it's going to be even longer than he anticipated getting back into game-ready condition. After having his left knee drained twice within a week's time to relieve pain associated with two baker's cysts that had built up in it, Cleary is still not able to go full bore on the ice.
He skated with the Wings for Thursday's practice, but left the ice a little early. He won't play against Nashville on Friday and isn't likely to play on Sunday against the San Jose Sharks
Howard, meanwhile, continues to progress in his recovery from a broken index finger on his right [blocker side] hand, which he hurt on Feb. 2 in Vancouver.
Howard won't start against the Preds -- Joey MacDonald
will get his fifth straight start -- but is slated to return to the net on Sunday against the Sharks.
"I just need a couple more practices out there being in the net for the whole practice," said Howard, who didn't share the net with another goalie for the first time on Thursday since getting hurt. "This day and age, just being out there one day just isn't going to cut it. I want to be out there fully-on for the guys."
Howard had been targeting Friday's game for his return, so he is a little disappointed.
"Just following the puck out there is now the biggest thing," he said. "Today in the 5-on-4, all of a sudden you put guys in front of you and you lose the puck a lot quicker when there's bodies all over the place. Get back out there for the pre-game skate and Saturday's practice and hopefully hit the ground running come Sunday."