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Wings' injuries will force Salei back into action

by Brian Hedger
DETROIT -- Ruslan Salei initially thought he'd sit out Monday night's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Instead, the Detroit Red Wings veteran defenseman will be pressed into action at Joe Louis Arena against the Penguins (7:30 p.m. Versus, TSN2, RIS) after missing a week to be with his wife in California for the birth of their third child.
The reason: minor injuries to forwards Pavel Datsyuk (lower body soreness), Johan Franzen (groin) and Jiri Hudler (upper body soreness). Veteran goalie Chris Osgood (groin surgery) also isn't ready to be Jimmy Howard's back-up yet, which leaves Detroit with a financial conundrum considering their limited space under the League's hard salary cap.
Joey MacDonald is currently backing up Howard, which means there's no further room under the cap to call anyone up from Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League to replace the injured forwards. Therefore, Salei will be pressed into action in his first day back, possibly logging time at defense and forward on the fourth line with Drew Miller and Justin Abdelkader.

"I haven't heard one player in all my years complain (about) too much ice time. We've got enough players."
-- Red Wings coach Mike Babcock

"We don't have the ability to call anybody up … cap space," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said, following Detroit's morning skate. "I don't think (Salei) will be worn out. He'll be alright."
Valtteri Filppula, the second-line center, may also see some double time in the game -- which Babcock also isn't concerned about.
"It's always good to have ice time," Babcock said. "I haven't heard one player in all my years complain (about) too much ice time. We've got enough players."
They've also got enough star power still able to suit up -- starting with top-line center Henrik Zetterberg, who stole the show last week by leading Detroit to victory with two goals in a highly-hyped matchup against Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals.
Zetterberg said the latest Red Wings injuries -- which take 57 goals and 140 points combined out of the Detroit lineup -- don't necessarily mean he must change his approach on the ice. On the other hand, with more ice time usually come more scoring opportunities.
"Hopefully I can help the team to put a few away," said Zetterberg, whose goals against the Caps broke a nine-game drought. "They aren't big injuries, so you'd rather have those get squared away before the playoffs start instead of grinding it out now."
Asham, Johnson to play for Pens: Forward Arron Asham will make his return to the ice after missing 21 games because of a concussion, while goalie Brent Johnson will get the start in goal for the Penguins -- giving starter Marc-Andre Fleury a day off after he took a 5-2 loss against the New York Rangers on Sunday.
Pittsburgh only has 10 games left counting Monday's game against the Red Wings and Asham is hoping it's enough time to get geared up for the playoffs. It's been a tumultuous season for Asham, who because of injuries has played just 36 games -- registering 5 goals and 10 points.
"It's been one of those years for me," he said following Pittsburgh's skate on Monday. "First one of my career that I've been injured this much. But I'm back for the last 10 games and the playoffs. Hopefully I can get my game back and help this team."
Sid still recovering: Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said that injured star center Sidney Crosby was supposed to skate back in Pittsburgh and also do some off-ice work in his recovery from a concussion that's kept him out for 31 games.
There's still no timetable on his return, nor is there a set return date for injured defenseman Brooks Orpik (broken finger) and injured forward Mike Comrie (hip). Bylsma said Orpik, who's missed 10 games, will likely return to full practices with the team next week and "will definitely" play at some point in the final games of the regular season.
Comrie, who's missed 50 games, is more uncertain
"He's got a lot of work to do, as far as building up strength and skating wise," Bylsma said.
Salei thankful: The Red Wings recently allowed Salei to stay in California with his wife for the birth of their third child, and second daughter. He missed a week and is now communicating with his wife via internet phone chats.
"Hopefully she can handle it on her own," he said. "It's never easy."
Just being able to be there meant a lot to Salei.
"It was real nice of them to let me stay with my family," he said of the Red Wings. "I appreciate that. That was really a class act. You don't see that often, for an organization to step up and do such a thing, but that's what being a Red Wing is all about. I'm not the first one who did it and I won't be the last one that will, so I really appreciate that."
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