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Red Wings' injuries mount, as Howard again joins list

by Brian Hedger
There's never a good time for injuries, but the Detroit Red Wings are really pushing the envelope of late.

If it seems like most of the team is battling some sort of injury, it's because that's the case for almost half the active roster right now. The latest to go down is starting goalie Jimmy Howard (groin strain), who won't be making the road trip to play against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night along with Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom (ankle), star center Pavel Datsyuk (knee), power forward Todd Bertuzzi (groin), forward Patrick Eaves (IR/concussion) and defensemen Jonathan Ericsson (wrist) and Jakub Kindl (upper body).

Howard, who still sports a bandage on the broken right index finger that kept him out for eight games, now has the groin injury that flared up in the first period of Sunday's 2-1 home loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

"It's nothing serious and it's still day-to-day," said Howard, who made five starts after returning from the finger injury. "[We] got ultrasound on the injury and nothing really serious showed. [I'll] just get treatment here and get back as soon as possible. Nothing major showed."


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Howard is hoping to be ready for Friday's home game against the Los Angeles Kings, but for the time being he's just another one of 10 Red Wings players who are either out of the lineup altogether or playing through various ailments.

"It's frustrating, but it's part of being a professional athlete," Howard said. "Injuries happen. Guys have been doing a tremendous job. We're not losing any ground in the standings. We've just got to continue to find ways to go out there and steal some points."

In order to do that this time, the Red Wings recalled three players from the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League on Monday morning: forward Chris Conner, defenseman Doug Janik and goalie Jordan Pearce. Backup goalie Joey MacDonald, who relieved Howard on Sunday and took a loss for the first time in his last eight appearances, will again become Detroit's starter until Howard is fit to return.

As for Lidstrom, the Wings captain is still healing from a deep bone bruise in his ankle, which he injured blocking a slap shot with the outside of his skate late in a 4-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Feb. 25 at Joe Louis Arena.

"When you don't have Nick or Pav, when you don't have two guys like that in the lineup, it always hurts," MacDonald said after Sunday's game. "You know what, it's time for guys to step up, and I [think] guys are stepping up. We've still got a lot of hockey left. I know we've got some injuries here, but you know what? [It's] better to get those injuries now and go on."

It's just that the list of aching Red Wings doesn't stop at the already listed names.

Defenseman Kyle Quincey is also playing through a groin issue that kept him out against Columbus last week, while forward Danny Cleary has lingering knee pain after having fluid removed last month and forward Henrik Zetterberg is dealing with a lower-body injury believed to be an ankle problem.

In all, that's 10 Wings dealing with some sort of injury to varying degrees.

"I think you have to find your way through," said Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who was announced as the League's second star for last week's stellar play. "Injuries come to every team through the course of the year, and now it’s bit us a little bit. But at the same time nobody is really thinking too much about it. We can’t lay down and feel sorry for ourselves. Whoever is out there, they need to make sure they do whatever is required and we’ll go from there.”

There is some scattered good news to be found among the piles of bandages and ice bags. Datsyuk has skated on his own the past two days and reportedly looked good after having his knee scoped on Feb. 21 to repair loose cartilage fragmentation. The dynamic two-way forward and top draw-taker hopes to return at some point next week during a road trip that culminates with three games in California.

Then there's Lidstrom's ankle, which Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said was doing a little better on Monday after Detroit's captain sat out the past three games to rest it.

The injury bug has also provided plenty of minutes the past three games for highly-regarded rookie defenseman Brendan Smith, who scored his first career goal on Friday against Minnesota and has responded well to seeing his minutes increase in each game he's played. He even showed some grit in a long fight on Sunday against Chicago rookie Andrew Shaw.

"We got some guys out, but at the same time it's a good opportunity for these other guys to show what they can do," Kronwall told reporters in Detroit on Monday. "Smitty's done a great job ever since he got called up, playing great, using his skating to his advantage, playing physical when he needs to. He's been looking really good. Times like this [are] when guys get a chance to show what they're made of."
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