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Wings, Ducks have key players nearing their returns

by Brian Hunter
RED WINGS (21-14-6) at DUCKS (16-19-7)

Last 10: Detroit 6-3-1; Anaheim 4-6-0

Season Series:
Third of four meetings this season between teams that met in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs last spring. The previous two games were at Joe Louis Arena and won by the Red Wings -- 7-4 on Nov. 14, with Henrik Zetterberg recording a third-period hat trick, and 3-2 on Dec. 11 behind an overtime goal by Todd Bertuzzi. Jimmy Howard picked up both victories in goal.

Big Story: Detroit is still struggling with a laundry list of injuries, but this week figures to see a pair of key players return. Zetterberg, who separated his left shoulder and hasn't played since Dec. 17, and Dan Cleary, who also suffered a separated shoulder and last played eight days earlier, both seem to be targeting Thursday's game in Los Angeles. Zetterberg even left open the possibility he could suit up against Anaheim.

"I'm feeling a little bit better," Zetterberg told the Detroit Free Press on Monday. "I just have to make sure it's the right time to go. I think we’re going to decide tomorrow -- we're going to decide after the morning skate. I'll have a little regroup with the medical staff and see how I feel. Maybe I feel better tomorrow."

In the meantime, Wings coach Mike Babcock will continue to do battle with whatever healthy bodies he has on the roster.

"Before the trip, it was on the trip, and then it was going to be on Tuesday," Babcock told the Free Press. "So what day is tomorrow? Tuesday? So then, you know what, when I see the whites of their eyes, I'll believe it. In the meantime, the rest of us are going to prepare to get ready."

Team Scope:

Red Wings: It's hard to fathom Detroit begins the second half three points out of a playoff spot, but that's the reality the Wings face as plays begins Tuesday. On the bright side, not only are some of their injured starting to heal, but they've won two straight and three of four -- including a 4-1 win Saturday in Phoenix against an up-and-coming team of Coyotes.

"The key pieces are still in place there," opposing coach Dave Tippett said afterward. "They got three top defensemen there. [Pavel] Datsyuk is as good a centerman as there is in the world."

Like its opponent, Anaheim also has a couple of key cogs about ready to rejoin the lineup. Ryan Getzlaf, out since suffering a leg laceration since Dec. 26, could play Tuesday, while Teemu Selanne will get stitches removed from his broken left hand on Wednesday and hopes to get the green light from doctors to move ahead in his rehab.

"Then, it's just a matter of time before I get my strength back, all the motion and flexibility of the fingers," Selanne said. "Skating-wise I feel ready. The good thing about having a hand injury is you can still keep your legs strong."

Unlike the Wings, the Ducks continue to struggle. They've dropped three straight and five of six, leaving them 12 points out of a playoff spot.

Who's Hot:
Tomas Holmstrom scored twice against Phoenix and leads Detroit this season with 15 goals. Darren Helm has three goals in his last two games, while Datsyuk has two goals and three points during that time. Howard is 3-0-1 in his last four starts, stopping 122 of 127 shots for a .961 save percentage.

Petteri Nokelainen scored both Anaheim goals in a 5-2 loss at Chicago on Sunday and has three points in his last two games.

Injury Report:
In addition to Zetterberg and Cleary, forward Brad May (lower-body) is day-to-day for the Wings. Still on injured reserve are defenseman Niklas Kronwall (sprained left MCL) and forwards Johan Franzen (knee) and Jason Williams (broken fibula). Defenseman Andreas Lilja has not played this season due to post-concussion symptoms and defenseman Jonathan Ericsson remains out indefinitely with a bone bruise to his left knee.

While Getzlaf and Selanne figure to be back sooner rather than later, the Ducks will be without forward Joffrey Lupul for about another month following back surgery.

Stat Pack:
Selanne and Getzlaf have combined for 24 goals (12 on the power play) and 64 points this season. … Datsyuk and Zetterberg lead Detroit with 22 assists and 32 points apiece.

Puck Drop:
Strong goaltending by Howard and timely scoring by veterans such as Holmstrom and Todd Bertuzzi have helped keep the Wings afloat -- they'll hope for more of the same against what should be a desperate group of Ducks.

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