Give Detroit Red Wings
coach Mike Babcock credit for having a sense of humor, albeit dry, regarding his team's injury situation during the stretch run of the regular season.
Babcock informed reporters following Tuesday's practice at Joe Louis Arena that Detroit will likely play the Western Conference leading Vancouver Canucks
on Wednesday without forwards Pavel Datsyuk
(lower body), Johan Franzen
(groin), Jiri Hudler
(shoulder) and Todd Bertuzzi
(back/upper body soreness).
Bertuzzi, who's played in 155 straight games since coming to Detroit, is the most recent addition to the Red Wings' walking wounded list -- after playing in Monday's 5-4 shootout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins
while the other three were scratched.
Babcock's humor came out after being asked if the Red Wings could make room under the League's hard salary cap to bring up a forward from Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League, something that will only happen if veteran goalie Chris Osgood
feels well enough to supplant Joey MacDonald
as Jimmy Howard
"Oh, we're trying to get some guys some ice time," Babcock stated flatly, with a slight grin.
"I always tell the guys, once the playoffs start I'm the team doctor. Until then we've got people who make those professional decisions." -- Mike Babcock
It's probably not a laughing matter to Red Wings fans, as the San Jose Sharks
are nipping at Detroit's heels for the West's No. 2 seed, just three points behind starting Tuesday's action.
Babcock, who said he wasn't conceding anything to the first-place Canucks by not playing four main contributors, said all of the injured forwards would be available if it were the Stanley Cup Playoffs instead of the regular season's conclusion.
"Oh yeah, they'd be playing," he said. "That's why I'm not a doctor or a therapist. I don't have to make these decisions. That's the great thing about this League, is that I'm not involved."
The humorous side of him then took over once again, at least partly.
"I always tell the guys, once the playoffs start I'm the team doctor," Babcock quipped. "Until then we've got people who make those professional decisions."
Datsyuk and Bertuzzi didn't participate at all in Tuesday's practice, while Franzen and Hudler started out on the ice with just Hudler finishing the entire session. Hudler said it's a balancing act for Detroit between charging hard for playoff positioning and getting healthy for the start of the playoffs.
"San Jose is just (three) points behind us," he said. "It's really tight and you want to get in the best position you can -- but you also want your key guys to be 100 percent."
As for facing the Canucks on Wednesday even more shorthanded on forwards than they were on Monday against the Penguins, Hudler said the Red Wings' depth should still be able to keep them in the game.
"We're very lucky to have that," Hudler said. "A lot of teams don't have depth like we do. To be able to still perform like the Detroit Red Wings
is great. Everybody in this room can play any position, any time. They can chip right in and that's what's great about us."
Howard hanging tough: After allowing four goals on just 15 shots and getting pulled in the second period of Monday's loss to the Penguins, Red Wings starting goalie Jimmy Howard
talked about his approach going forward as the clear-cut No. 1 option in the Detroit net.
"It happens," he said of getting the hook. "The season is long. I wasn't happy with how last night went, but at the same time, you just got to let it go and continue to push forward. The season is not a sprint. It's a marathon. Just got to put it behind you and step forward."
Howard has come under a lot more scrutiny in the local media this season, after mostly cruising through his rookie season a year ago and making a case for Calder Trophy consideration. He is tied with Montreal's Carey Price
for the League lead in wins (34), but saw his goals-against average increase to 2.79 after Monday's performance.
"Fortunately enough I don't listen to them," Howard said of critics. "I don't read the newspapers. I don't read the Internet. I don't listen to the radio stations -- because you don't want things to creep into your mind that aren't there. You just have to, I guess, live in your own little bubble."