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Draper itching to get back in lineup for Game 7

by Brian Compton /
DETROIT -- Kris Draper has had it.

The Detroit Red Wings forward -- who has missed the entire 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs to date with an upper-body injury -- is aching to crack the lineup when his team meets the Anaheim Ducks in Game 7 of this Western Conference Semifinal at Joe Louis Arena on Thursday night (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS).

Draper, 37, was one of the first players off the ice on Thursday morning and will be a game-time decision. He's hoping to hear some good news.

"I'm preparing that I'm going to play," said Draper, who hasn't been in action since April 9 against the Nashville Predators. "When the docs come in, hopefully I get that green light. That's what my preparation's going to be. I hope to be a part of it (Thursday)."

If he's not, Draper will clearly be devastated. He's one of the few in the Wings' locker room who was part of the franchise's last Game 7, which took place in 2002 against the Colorado Avalanche. He's not prepared to watch this one.

"We've talked a lot here the last five, six days about not being able to be a part of this," Draper said. "I've said my peace to the docs. Everything that I can do … it's out of my hands. Hopefully I get that nod and I'm able to play (Thursday) and be a part of it."

Draper had been hoping to play since Game 3, when the Wings made their first trip to Anaheim. He was asked if he's noticed a difference in his health since that time.

"I don't," he said. "I've been trying to get in for a long time. But this is something I want to be a part of. I've stated that, I've argued that. We'll see. I'll probably find out when I get to the rink (Thursday) or just before warmup. But my preparation is that I'm going to play. I don't get the last say -- that's the unfortunate thing."

Team physicians will determine before the game whether Draper is ready to play. Then, it will be up to coach Mike Babcock to write Draper's name on the lineup card. On Thursday morning, though, Babcock wasn't prepared to answer the question as to whether Draper will dress.

"I don't make those decisions," Babcock said. "When the doctor makes those decisions at game time, then I can get involved. I said to Nick Lidstrom last night, how many (Game 7s) has he played in, and he said, 'Four, maybe five.' It's an unbelievable opportunity and should be a lot of fun, so Draper probably wants to play and I don't blame him."

Detroit defenseman Brian Rafalski understands where Draper is coming from. Rafalski was forced to miss the first five games of this series before returning to the lineup in Anaheim for Game 6.

"Obviously he wants to contribute … he's been around here a long time," Rafalski said. "He's someone that has contributed a lot to this team. He's very good in the faceoff circle. To add that would help."

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