PENGUINS (17-15-4) at RED WINGS (18-12-7)
TV: SN, ROOT, FS-D
DETROIT -- Detroit Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson will return after missing five games because of a shoulder injury when Detroit plays the Pittsburgh Penguins at Joe Louis Arena Thursday.
"I don't even like to stay away two days from the ice but I had a chance to skate every day, which helps," Ericsson said. "It's not going to be the same as a game, conditioning, but it's going to be as close as you get when you have the chance to skate every day."
In 32 games this season, Ericsson has one goal, six points and a plus-7 rating.
Ericsson said he could have gotten back into the lineup sooner, but doctors used the calendar to show Ericsson why sitting out longer was a better plan.
"It's a matter of it being Game 35, 36, so on," Ericsson said. "The doctors and staff took the decision; they've been through this way more times than I have so they know better than me. Now I feel ready. I shouldn't get put back in my recovery by playing tonight. That's my thought and it seems to be their thought as well."
The Red Wings have lost their past two games.
The Penguins will be playing the second game of a back-to-back; they lost 3-2 in a shootout to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday in Pittsburgh.
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang briefly left the game after being hit into the boards by forward Leo Komarov. Coach Mike Sullivan said Letang was evaluated and permitted to return a few minutes later. Letang, who has sustained various injuries this season, is expected to play in consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 28 against the Edmonton Oilers and Dec. 1 against the San Jose Sharks.
The Penguins didn't skate Thursday morning.
Here are the projected lineups:
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Conor Sheary
David Perron - Evgeni Malkin - Patric Hornqvist
Scott Wilson - Nick Bonino - Phil Kessel
Kevin Porter - Matt Cullen - Eric Fehr
Kris Letang - Olli Maatta
Ian Cole - Trevor Daley
Brian Dumoulin - Ben Lovejoy
Injured: Marc-Andre Fleury (concussion), Beau Bennett (upper body)
Scratched: Sergei Plotnikov, David Warsofsky
Justin Abdelkader - Henrik Zetterberg - Dylan Larkin
Darren Helm - Pavel Datsyuk - Brad Richards
Gustav Nyquist - Riley Sheahan - Tomas Tatar
Tomas Jurco - Luke Glendening - Tomas Nosek
Niklas Kronwall - Mike Green
Danny DeKeyser - Jonathan Ericsson
Brendan Smith - Alexey Marchenko
Injured: Drew Miller (broken jaw), Teemu Pulkkinen (dislocated shoulder), Kyle Quincey (ankle), Johan Franzen (concussion)
Scratched: Joakim Andersson, Jakub Kindl
Status update: Pittsburgh sent defenseman Adam Clendening to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League on a conditioning assignment Thursday. … Datsyuk and Zetterberg worked on the same power-play unit Thursday morning. They had been on different units. They were with Nyquist, Abdelkader and Kronwall on Thursday.
Who's hot: Crosby has two goals and two assists in his past three games. … The Red Wings have two goals in the past two games, and Datsyuk has scored both. He has two goals and two assists during a four-game point streak.