DETROIT – Left wing Kirk Maltby and center Kris Draper are a step closer to returning to the ice for the Red Wings.
Following Thursday’s practice, both players mentioned that they hope to participate in Friday’s morning skate at Joe Louis Arena. The Wings (19-6-2) host the Minnesota Wild at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Maltby has suffered from a sore lower back for the last nine days, and Draper is dealing with a sprained left knee. Both players were injured in the Wings’ 5-3 win over Calgary on Nov. 27. After working out and receiving treatments on Thursday, it seems that Draper is more likely to return to the lineup sooner than his longtime teammate.
“It didn’t really progress like I’d hope it would so that I could have skated a little today, so it’s the same prognosis, day-to-day,” Maltby said. “If it feels good tomorrow to go for a little twirl on the ice then I will, if not then it’s going to be a little bit of a workout and treatment. Honestly, I wish I had more to tell you.”
The back injury snapped Maltby’s streak of playing in 188 straight games. He hadn’t missed a game since the 2003-04 season when he was sidelined for three games.
Maltby skated in Montreal on Monday, but said he suffered a slight setback late in practice. “I just kind of tweaked it at the end and was kind of going two steps forward and three back,” said Maltby, who has three goals and three assists in 24 games this season. “Since then, it hasn’t progress. When we got back from Montreal, I was hoping to skate today. We’ll see again tomorrow.”
An MRI taken on Maltby’s lower back was negative -- meaning signs of a bulging disk weren’t present.
“Hopefully, it’s just a matter of time,” Maltby said. “It hasn’t been all that long and hopefully I’m not still saying that a month from now. I’m not concern yet, but I definitely thought it would be better than what is it right now.”
For Draper, watching the last three games has been frustrating, to say the least.
“We’ve got a good thing going here and you want to be a part of it,” Draper said. “The guys are playing unbelievable right now. You’re obviously happy to see that, but it stings; you want to be a part of it.”
Originally, doctors told Draper that he would need 10-14 days of rest before he could likely return to action. As it stands, a return probably won’t occur before next weekend at the earliest.
“Obviously, we’re closing in on 10 (days), so it will probably be closer to the two-week time,” Draper said. “I’ll skate tomorrow and that will be a big test. Just to get out there – an opportunity to skate with the guys again – would be fun, so we’ll see what happens.
“Riding the bike is fine and the little walks and runs on the treadmill today, I didn’t have any issues with that, so every day I’ve been stepping it up and doing more stuff. Hopefully, that’s a good sign and we’ll go from there.”
Asked if he thought he might return by late next week, perhaps against Florida on Dec. 15, Draper said, “You’ll probably have to ask tomorrow. Until to get out on to the ice and stop-start and battle that’s going to be the test on how it reacts to stuff like that.”
Upon his return, Draper, who has six goals and five assists in 24 games, will likely have to wear a brace on his left knee for at least a few games.