SAN JOSE –
The Detroit Red Wings
will have center Pavel Datsyuk
back in the lineup Saturday night for the first time since Feb. 19, but they’ll be without forward Johan Franzen
when they face the San Jose Sharks
at HP Pavilion.
Datsyuk missed 11 games with a knee injury that required surgery on Feb. 21. Franzen suffered back spasms during practice Friday and wasn’t on the ice for Detroit’s morning skate. Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said he doesn’t know when Franzen will return to the lineup.
“He spasmed up. He’s not feeling like he could play, so he’s not playing,” Babcock said of Franzen, who will miss his first game of the season. “I don’t’ know what the timeline is on something like that.
“Obviously we would have liked to have to Mule, but those are things that happen. There’s no sense worrying about who’s not here. Let’s just play hard. They’re a desperate team, and we’re a desperate team. We both need wins bad.”
With 91 points, Detroit isn’t desperately fighting just to make the playoffs the way the Sharks are with only 80. But the Red Wings have lost three straight games on the road and five of their past six overall. Datsyuk’s return is some good injury news is a sea of bad for Detroit.
“It’s great to have Pavel back,” Red Wings forward Danny Cleary
said. “It’s an understatement to say how important he is to our team. We’re the walking wounded around here these days. One guy in, one or two guys out. So Pav’s a big help for us.”
With Holmstrom out, Cleary, one of the “walking wounded,” will skate on the top line with Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi
. Cleary has been battling a painful knee since December that he said will require surgery after the season. He said he’s had two injections of a “gel type” substance with one to go next week in hopes that it will lubricate the knee and reduce pain.
“I’ll know by the first week of April if it’s set in,” Cleary said.
If it doesn’t set in, then Cleary said he’ll just keep playing through pain in the playoffs.
The Red Wings will be without All-Star defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom
, who returned to Detroit earlier in the trip and will miss his eighth straight game with an ankle injury.
Backup goalie Joey MacDonald
is also out after suffering back spasms and pain down one of his legs Wednesday night against Anaheim. He said he’ll undergo an MRI on Monday.
“Kind of concerned about that a little bit,” MacDonald said of the pain in his leg. “We can’t really do anything until we get a picture and see how it is.”
MacDonald has good reason to be concerned. In 2006 he had back surgery to repair a bulging disk in his back.
“It’s not quite the same feeling, so hopefully it’s a little different,” MacDonald said.
, who was recalled Friday from Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League, will back up staring goaltender Jimmy Howard
against San Jose.
The Sharks, coming off a 2-1 shootout win Thursday night against Nashville, expect Detroit to get a big boost from Datsyuk’s return.
“They’ve been waiting for him for a while,” Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle
said. “I’m sure he’s going to jumpstart their team. He’s arguably, probably the top guy with the puck in the whole League, in the world. You can’t bite on anything. If you bite on any of the moves there’s a very good chance you’re going to get beat. It’s just important to keep him between yourself and your goalie and try to keep him on the outside the best you can.”
Datsyuk said he’s feeling “every day better” but knows that the big test will come on the ice playing multiple games. The Red Wings have 11 more regular-season games, and the question is whether that’s enough time for Datsyuk to round into playoff form.
“I think so and I hope so, but we’ll see,” Datsyuk said. “It’s hard to say. Sometimes it’s enough. Sometimes it’s not. But I hope so.”
The Sharks beat the Red Wings in back-to-back Western Conference semifinals and have won two out of three games this season. Boyle, though, said the Sharks recent dominance of the Red Wings is a mystery to him.
“It’s like Washington. We’ve beaten Washington 16 out of 17 times. Why? I don’t know,” Boyle said. “Detroit, a few years ago, it was the other way around. San Jose couldn’t’ beat Detroit. The last few years it’s been in our favor, but this team is obviously among the top in the game. We just play hard, we’re ready for them. We usually have a very good effort against them. I don’t’ expect anything different.”
Here’s how the lineups could look Saturday night when the San Jose Sharks
face the Detroit Red Wings
at HP Pavilion:
– Joe Thornton
– Joe Pavelski
– Patrick Marleau
– Martin Havlat
– Dominic Moore
– Torrey Mitchell
– Andrew Desjardins
– Brad Winchester
– Dan Boyle
– Brent Burns
– Justin Braun
Niemi will make his 10th straight start for the Sharks. Forward Tommy Wingels
(upper body) will miss his third straight game.
– Pavel Datsyuk
– Danny Cleary
Valterri Filppula – Henrik Zetterberg
– Jiri Hudler
– Darren Helm
– Justin Abdelkader
– Cory Emmerton
– Jan Mursak
– Brad Stuart
– Ian White
– Doug Janik