Detroit Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk will make his long-awaited return to the lineup Friday against the Buffalo Sabres at Joe Louis Arena, and he may not be the only key player back.
Veteran forward Daniel Alfredsson, who missed the game Wednesday against the Boston Bruins with back issues, is a game-time decision. Although Alfredsson didn't take part in line rushes at the morning skate, Red Wings general manager Ken Holland believes he'll play, according to Ansar Khan of MLive.com.
Datsyuk is official, though, and Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said he'll start the game on a line with forwards Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader. Knee inflammation has kept Datsyuk out since Feb. 27 and he's been limited to 39 games this season.
Detroit has 86 points and six games remaining. The Red Wings currently hold the Eastern Conference's first wild-card berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, one point ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
In other injury news, Holland said forward Stephen Weiss would not play again this season after suffering multiple setbacks in his recovery from hernia surgery. Forward Henrik Zetterberg (back) is expected to start skating again next week, but won't return until the first round of the playoffs at the earliest.
Goaltender Jimmy Howard will start with backup Jonas Gustavsson slated to face the Montreal Canadiens Saturday night at Bell Centre.
The Sabres arrived in Detroit after a 2-1 loss at the St. Louis Blues on Thursday. Goalie Matt Hackett will start after fellow rookie Nathan Lieuwen got the nod against the Blues.
Forward Luke Adam was recalled from Rochester of the American Hockey League to replace injured wing Marcus Foligno. Adam has one goal in 10 games with the Sabres this season and has a team-leading 27 goals for the Americans along with 47 points in 53 games.
Coach Ted Nolan said Foligno will miss the rest of the season, but his lower-body injury may not be serious.
Here are the projected lineups for the Sabres and the Red Wings:
Cody Hodgson - Zemgus Girgensons - Brian Flynn
Ville Leino - Tyler Ennis - Nicolas Deslauriers
Luke Adam - Johan Larsson - Matt D'Agostini
Cory Conacher - Matt Ellis - John Scott
Christian Ehrhoff - Rasmus Ristolainen
Mike Weber - Chad Ruhwedel
Jake McCabe - Jamie McBain
Injured: Drew Stafford (undisclosed), Henrik Tallinder (lower body), Kevin Porter (lower body), Chris Stewart (ankle), Alexander Sulzer (upper body), Michal Neuvirth (lower body), Jhonas Enroth (lower body), Torrey Mitchell (undisclosed), Tyler Myers (midsection), Zenon Konopka (back), Marcus Foligno (lower body)
Gustav Nyquist - David Legwand - Johan Franzen
Darren Helm - Pavel Datsyuk - Justin Abdelkader
Tomas Tatar - Riley Sheahan - Tomas Jurco
Drew Miller - Luke Glendening - Daniel Alfredsson
Brendan Smith - Niklas Kronwall
Kyle Quincey - Danny DeKeyser
Brian Lashoff - Jakub Kindl
Scratched: Joakim Andersson, Todd Bertuzzi
Injured: Henrik Zetterberg (back), Stephen Weiss (sports hernia), Jonathan Ericsson (finger), Mikael Samuelsson (shoulder), Daniel Cleary (knee)