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Lidstrom hoping to return to Red Wings on Saturday

Wednesday, 03.21.2012 / 1:27 PM / NHL Insider

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Lidstrom hoping to return to Red Wings on Saturday
Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom will miss his 11th game tonight, but after skating again this morning, the future Hall of Famer said his time away could be nearing an end.

NEW YORK -- The Detroit Red Wings could have their captain back for Saturday's home game against Carolina.

They certainly need him.

Nicklas Lidstrom will miss his 11th straight game Wednesday when the slumping Red Wings play the Rangers at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2). He's been out while dealing with the pain of a bone bruise in his right ankle, but Lidstrom skated for the third straight day Wednesday and said he feels he finally has turned the corner in his frustratingly long recovery.

"I can pivot better today, skate and push a little bit more," Lidstrom said. "A week ago out in L.A., when I skated out there, it was too sharp of a pain -- just that stabbing pain where I couldn't walk with my skate. That's a lot better. It still hurts turning and pivoting, when I put pressure on that point, but that sharp pain is not there like it was a week ago."

Nicklas Lidstrom
Defense - DET
GOALS: 10 | ASST: 21 | PTS: 31
SOG: 127 | +/-: 25
Detroit is 3-6-1 without Lidstrom, and just 1-6-1 in its last eight games. The Red Wings currently are fifth in the Western Conference, but the Blackhawks have charged to within two points thanks to their four-game winning streak.

"It's always hard sitting on the sidelines, and when the team is not playing well you want to be there to help the team, be a part of the team, be in the locker room," Lidstrom said. "It's frustrating when you can't be a part of that."

Lidstrom is just the biggest name on the Red Wings' new MASH unit. They also will be without goalie Jimmy Howard (groin), backup goalie Joey MacDonald (back), center Darren Helm (knee), right wing Johan Franzen (back), defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (wrist) and defenseman Jakub Kindl (upper body) against the Rangers.

Ty Conklin, who was recalled from AHL Grand Rapids and cleared waivers at noon ET on Wednesday, will start Wednesday, while Jordan Pearce will serve as his backup. Conklin did not skate Wednesday morning.

Ericsson will miss his 11th straight game and Kindl his eighth, but both were on the ice with Lidstrom and Pearce for Detroit's optional morning skate at the Garden. Ericsson, who fractured his wrist Feb. 25 against Colorado, said he finally was able to put a little power into his shots, and that next Wednesday's game at Columbus is a realistic target date for his return.

"I don't want to say too much because the trainers and doctors have to have their say, too," Ericsson said, "but from what I'm feeling and the progress we've had, I feel so."

Franzen, who has missed the last two games, was getting treatment for his back Wednesday morning and said he is not targeting any return date yet. Helm is out for at least the rest of the regular season after hurting his knee last week at San Jose. Howard is dealing with a flare-up of his groin problems, which forced him to miss three games earlier this month. MacDonald has sciatic pain down his left leg.

"A week ago out in L.A., when I skated out there, it was too sharp of a pain -- just that stabbing pain where I couldn't walk with my skate. That's a lot better. It still hurts turning and pivoting, when I put pressure on that point, but that sharp pain is not there like it was a week ago." -- Nicklas Lidstrom

But if Lidstrom continues to heal the way he has the last three days, the Red Wings could at least arguably have their most important piece back Saturday. That decision, though, isn't Lidstrom's solely.

Detroit's medical staff has been in constant contact with him, basically monitoring his every move. Lidstrom said the trainers are concerned that if he plays too soon he could suffer a setback, but it's a double-edged sword because the only way he can tell if he's ready to go is if he at least pushes himself in practice, which is what he's been doing.

"They want me to be careful with it, not gamble with it," he said. "I still want to push myself and see how hard I can skate out there."

Most important to Lidstrom is getting back in a groove before the playoffs begin. Time, of course, is running out as the Red Wings will have eight games left after playing the Rangers on Wednesday.

"You want to get some games in before the playoffs start to get back to game tempo and game situations," Lidstrom said. "On the other side, you don't want to get hurt again and take a couple steps backward. You want to be careful with it, but you have to test it out, try it, see how it feels."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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