Just as the Red Wings prepare to welcome back superstar center Pavel Datsyuk
to the lineup Saturday, another key piece might be missing for their game against the Sharks at HP Pavilion.
Forward Johan Franzen
left the ice early Friday morning complaining of low back pain as the team skated at the Sharks’ training facility. His status for Saturday is uncertain.
Franzen said that he’s experienced back problems in the past, but nothing quite as severe as Friday morning.
“I never had this before. Not like this,” he said. “Can't play like this.”
The Wings’ leading goal-scorer is one of three players to appear in all 71 games this season, joining center Henrik Zetterberg
and defenseman Niklas Kronwall
. But Franzen is just the latest in a laundry list of players to be added to the team’s infirmary.
Over the last month, nine players have spent time on the shelf for either injury or illness, including Datsyuk, who had knee surgery and captain Nicklas Lidstrom
(bruised right ankle).
If Franzen can’t play Saturday, he’ll be the 1010 player since Feb. 21 to miss a game.
“When I started skating it started to spasm up and got worse and worse, tried to skate through it,” Franzen said. “I had to get off, I couldn't really move.
“We're going to do some treatment tonight and get back on it tomorrow.”
But Datsyuk sounded much more positive about his possible return.
“Looking forward to playing tomorrow,” said Datsyuk, who last played on Feb. 19 against the Sharks.
While he’s glad to be returning, Datsyuk is glad to have 11 games to work out any rust prior to the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs next month.
“Every time is different,” he said. “I hope so tomorrow it be back, kind of everything. But after every injury, it takes more time or less time, it's hard to say.”
Coach Mike Babcock wasn’t so certain that the Wings would have their top forward back for Saturday, but if they do, the coach said, “He’s talented and he’s a hard worker. I think he’s the best two-way player in the game, so he’s a huge part of what goes on and we haven’t been very good.”
Datsyuk is also aware of the Sharks dire situation as they try to qualify for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference playoff picture.
“San Jose good team. Now it's end of season, every team is fighting for playoffs, every game is tough,” he said. “It's going to be a challenging game tomorrow for sure.”
Meanwhile, with Lidstrom experiencing a setback in his recovery from a deep ankle bruise, the Wings decided to send the captain home to Detroit, where he can rest the injury and be re-evaluated by the team’s medical staff on Monday.
Backup goalie Joey MacDonald
is also nursing a bad back that he sustained during Wednesday’s 4-0 loss at Anaheim.
The Wings have recalled goaltender Jordan Pearce
from Grand Rapids. The Griffins’ goalie will serve as Howard’s backup Saturday against the Sharks. However, Pearce didn’t make it to northern California in time for Friday morning’s practice, leaving goalie coach Jim Bedard to man one of the practice nets.
As the 55-year-old former NHL goalie made his way out to the ice surface, he jokingly squinted his eyes and asked, “Which way is the ice?”
Pearce’s recall is his second stint with the Wings this month. He backed-up MacDonald for three games while Howard recovered from a groin strain. Pearce has been in the Wings’ organization since the 2008-09 season, but is still seeking to make his NHL debut.
A native of Anchorage, Alaska, Pearce has appeared in 17 games with the Griffins this season, compiling a 3-7-1 record, a 3.53 goals against average, an .874 save percentage and one shutout.
In 67 career games with Grand Rapids, the 25-year-old University of Notre Dame graduate has a 24-25-6 record, a 3.13 GAA, an save percentage and two shutouts.
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill