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Bad back still has Maltby sidelined

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – Kirk Maltby, who hasn’t missed more than six games in the past six regular-seasons, will likely be sidelined for the rest of December.

Maltby, who suffered a lower back injury in the first period of the Wings’ game against Calgary on Nov. 27, skated once since, but experience more pain toward the end of an on-ice workout earlier this month.

“It’s definitely not going to be before Christmas,” said Maltby of his return. “I was hoping for New Year’s and we’ll see. I’m close to getting on the ice and to start skating. It’s just a process where we don’t want a setback.”

Asked when he thought Maltby may return, Wings coach Mike Babcock said, “he’s not even on the radar screen.”

Maltby underwent the first-round of epidural injections, and is scheduled to receive another on Friday.

“It’s not like a bulging disk,” he said. “There’s a contusion there. The best way to describe it is that there’s a bad bruise on my lower spine. It was pretty inflamed and I had some shots about a week ago now, and it really helped.”

Maltby has already sat out nine games, and he’ll miss the conclusion of the Wings’ long stretch of home games – eight of the last 10 games at Joe Louis Arena -- when they host the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday.

Never in Maltby’s wildest imagination, would he have guessed that he would be sidelined this long.

“I was self-diagnosing myself when it originally happening; I called it day-to-day,” Maltby said. “I never thought I’d be out this long with it. Then when I did skate in Montreal and tweaked it there, that was definitely a setback.”

Maltby has spent his time doing some workouts on his own, and he’s said that he’s experiencing minimal discomfort.

“There’s very minimal pain and now it’s about getting the strength built up and just trying to prevent it from happening again,” he said.

Following Tuesday team practice, center Kris Draper (sprained knee), who has been sidelined for the same amount of games as Maltby, declared himself fit to return to action against the Kings on Wednesday.

The early concern with Draper’s return was having him play in these back-to-back games facing the Wings over the next nine days. The Wings play at St. Louis on Thursday before returning there on Dec. 26, and Colorado on Dec. 27.

“At first it was not back-to-back,” Draper said. “If everything goes good tomorrow night and there are no issues Thursday morning, I’m going to be a tough guy to keep out of the line-up.”

The Wings were cautious when it came to Draper’s return, Babcock said.

“We probably kept him out longer than he wanted to,” Babcock said. “Ideally, he’s healthy and will give us energy. When he gets his game back, he’ll obviously help our penalty-kill and help our face-off circle.”

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