DETROIT -- The hope was to get Detroit Red Wings veteran forward Todd Bertuzzi back on the ice Wednesday night at Joe Louis Arena for a key game against the Los Angeles Kings.
Instead, Bertuzzi will sit out for at least one more game and hopes to return for Thursday's home game against the Nashville Predators. Bertuzzi hasn't played since Feb. 7 against the St. Louis Blues because of a painful pinched nerve in his back.
He's been skating for a while, but hasn't been able to do much conditioning work on the ice until lately. That, according to Bertuzzi, is why he isn't ready to face the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings on Wednesday night.
"I'll be ready to play [Thursday]," Bertuzzi said after working extra following Wednesday's morning skate. "I needed another hard skate. Like I said before, a week ago, I can't come in and not be ready to play a full 60 [minutes] and help out, contribute, be big down low, finish my checks. I needed another hard skate and that's what we just finished."
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock sounded both surprised and disappointed upon learning Bertuzzi's status for the game against the Kings.
"I thought he was going today," Babcock said. "Nothing made me hesitate. It wasn't my decision."
Asked what Bertuzzi could bring to the lineup, Babcock bristled a bit.
"Unless you're up to speed I don't know how you jump into an NHL schedule," he said. "You see guys that missed training camp and it takes them six weeks to get going. I don't know at this time [what Bertuzzi can add]. That's where the player has to make that decision."
Bertuzzi doesn't know exactly what he can give the Red Wings either, at least not at this point, but center Darren Helm (back) is still out indefinitely, and left wing Drew Miller's right hand is now in a cast because of a broken finger that cropped up this past weekend in Vancouver.
Anything positive the Red Wings can get from Bertuzzi would be welcomed as they make one last push to get into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, sitting one point out in ninth place of the Western Conference.
"I haven't pushed it," Bertuzzi said. "I've been skating, but I haven't pushed it as hard as I possibly can. I [wanted] to make sure it was right. I went and got more therapy [on my back] and it seems like it's working. This gives me an extra day to get stronger and get my wind in, and coming in on a back-to-back day may be good for the team to get some fresh legs and an enthusiastic player."
One veteran forward who's cleared medically to return, but won't play against the Kings, is Mikael Samuelsson, who's missed most of the season with a couple of upper-body injuries. Babcock said he's cleared to return but will sit out as a coaching decision.
Miller doesn't need surgery to repair the fractured finger that got injured when a puck struck his glove at an odd angle against the Vancouver Canucks. He expects to be out four to six weeks and hopes the Red Wings are in well into the postseason at that point.
Jimmy Howard will start in goal for Detroit, and Jonathan Quick is expected to start for Los Angeles, which dropped a tight game on Tuesday night at the Minnesota Wild with Jonathan Bernier in net. The Kings didn't hold a morning skate Wednesday, so there might be some lineup changes as the result of playing back-to-back games.
Here is how the Kings and Red Wings might line up on Wednesday night:
Justin Williams – Anze Kopitar – Dustin Brown
Dustin Penner – Mike Richards – Jeff Carter
Dwight King – Jarret Stoll – Trevor Lewis
Jordan Nolan – Brad Richardson – Kyle Clifford
Robyn Regehr – Drew Doughty
Rob Scuderi – Slava Voynov
Jake Muzzin – Matt Greene
Scratched: Nick Shore, Keaton Ellerby, Colin Fraser, Alec Martinez
Injured: Willie Mitchell (IR, knee, out for the season)
Henrik Zetterberg- Pavel Datsyuk – Justin Abdelkader
Valtteri Filppula – Johan Franzen – Danny Cleary
Gustav Nyquist – Joakim Andersson – Damien Brunner
Patrick Eaves – Cory Emmerton – Jordin Tootoo
Niklas Kronwall – Jonathan Ericsson
Kyle Quincey – Brendan Smith
Danny DeKeyser – Jakub Kindl
Scratched: Ian White, Brian Lashoff, Carlo Colaiacovo, Mikael Samuelsson, Jared Coreau
Injured: Darren Helm (IR, back, out indefinitely), Todd Bertuzzi (back), Drew Miller (fractured finger)