At one point, the Detroit Red Wings had eight players on injured reserve. That number was reduced to seven over the weekend with defenseman Danny DeKeyser's return from a shoulder injury. By Monday morning the list of wounded players was trimmed to six when center Gustav Nyquist was inserted into the lineup to play against the New York Islanders after he missed three games with a groin issue.
"I've had a few good skates here over the last few days to try and get back to game pace," Nyquist said. "Everything feels good.
"It's different being on a bike or in the weight room; you could kind of feel it at first because I was off the ice for four days. You'd lose your breath pretty quick. But again, I've had a few good skates here. I feel good right now. It's going to be fun to play [Monday]."
Slowly but surely the Red Wings are healing. General manager Ken Holland told reporters Monday that forward Justin Abdelkader (concussion) is cleared to play Saturday against the Florida Panthers. Forward Johan Franzen (concussion) has been skating on his own but won't be ready for Saturday because he needs a couple of practices. Captain Henrik Zetterberg (herniated disc) and goalie Jimmy Howard (sprained MCL) could be back as soon as the weekend.
The Islanders, 2-10-4 in their past 16 games and 10-20-7 on the season, are hoping to get untracked after allowing four third-period goals in a 5-3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Dec. 21.
Secondary scoring has been an issue during the Islanders' prolonged slump -- the top line of Thomas Vanek, John Tavares and Kyle Okposo has accounted for 33 of New York's 89 non-shootout goals -- but the second line is showing signs of life. Michael Grabner, Frans Nielsen and Josh Bailey are heating up. Nielsen and Grabner each have three points (two goals, one assist) in their past three games and Bailey has two assists in his past two.
"They're no different from us," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said of the Islanders. "They're a group that hasn't gotten traction. They had a number of key injuries. It's hard to get traction in this League when you don't have your players."
Jonas Gustavsson, 2-2-1 with a 3.12 goals-against average in five starts since Howard went down, will be in goal for the Red Wings. The Islanders will counter with Evgeni Nabokov, who is 1-1-2 with a 2.44 GAA since he returned from a groin injury that sidelined him 11 games.
Islanders coach Jack Capuano instituted a few lineup adjustments for the game Monday. Forward Colin McDonald is back on the fourth line and defenseman Aaron Ness is on the third pairing with Brian Strait.
Forwards Eric Boulton and Peter Regin and defenseman Matt Carkner will be healthy scratches.
"We're in last place so no one should be arguing about who's in and who's out at this particular time," Capuano said.
Here are the Islanders' and Red Wings' projected lineups:
Gustav Nyquist - Pavel Datsyuk - Todd Bertuzzi
Tomas Jurco - Riley Sheahan - Daniel Alfredsson
Drew Miller - Joakim Andersson - Tomas Tatar
Daniel Cleary - Luke Glendening - Patrick Eaves
Niklas Kronwall - Jonathan Ericsson
Danny DeKeyser - Kyle Quincey
Brendan Smith - Brian Lashoff
Scratched: Mikael Samuelsson, Jakub Kindl
Injured: Henrik Zetterberg (herniated disc), Johan Franzen (concussion), Darren Helm (shoulder), Justin Abdelkader (concussion), Jimmy Howard (sprained MCL), Stephen Weiss (sports hernia surgery)
Note: Right wing Jordin Tootoo was assigned to the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League.
Thomas Vanek – John Tavares – Kyle Okposo
Michael Grabner – Frans Nielsen – Josh Bailey
Brock Nelson – Ryan Strome – Cal Clutterbuck
Matt Martin – Casey Cizikas – Colin McDonald
Andrew MacDonald – Thomas Hickey
Calvin de Haan – Travis Hamonic
Aaron Ness – Brian Strait
Scratched: Eric Boulton, Matt Carkner, Peter Regin
Injured: Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion), Radek Martinek (back)