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Eaves on pace for Oct. 26 return

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Patrick Eaves is skating again with his Red Wings teammates and said Thursday that he'll be ready to return to the lineup by Oct. 26 when he'll be eligible to come off of LTIR. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT Patrick Eaves never played football, but he definitely knows what an offensive lineman must go through when someone falls on the back of his leg.

Three weeks ago, the Red Wings’ fourth-line center suffered an injury to his left leg during a practice at Joe Louis Arena. The freak accident resulted in sprains to Eaves’ MCL and ankle.

“I was just standing in front of the net tipping the puck and two guys were battling behind me and one guy laid on my leg,” said Eaves, who began the season on long-term injured reserve. “I didn’t even see it. I just felt him. My leg was pinned underneath me. I couldn’t get him off me.”

Eaves has skated with the Wings this week, but isn’t eligible to return to the lineup before Oct. 26 when Detroit hosts the New York Rangers.

“I’ll be ready when I come off IR for sure,” said Eaves, who produced two goals and six assists in 34 games last season. “A little bad luck there, but it is what it is.”

Players placed on LTIR, like Eaves and center Darren Helm (lower back), must sit out a minimum of 10 games and 24 days.

Though he’s managed to skate in most of the team’s on-ice drills at practice, Eaves is still experiencing some pain and discomfort associated with the sprains. But that’s to be expected since doctors told him that he would be out 2-4 weeks.

“I have a little bit (of pain), still,” he said, “but I got some time here to get rid of that and be back and be ready.”

Eaves plans to go on the road next week when the Red Wings travel to Colorado and Phoenix.

TRAP GAME: Though the Coyotes have scored just one goal in each of their last two games – road losses to San Jose and New York Islanders – Wings coach Mike Babcock is leery of their ability to bounce back tonight, especially against a team that hasn’t played since last Saturday.

“The last two games haven’t gone the way they wanted,” Babcock said. “I’ve coached against Tipper (Phoenix coach Dave Tippett) for a long time and he does a real good job and they’re not going to be playing like that for long.”

This week’s hiatus is the first of three four-day breaks the Red Wings will have prior to the league’s shutdown for the Winter Olympics in February. Will the layoff help or hurt the Red Wings?

“Well, I don’t know if rust is a concern,” Babcock said. “Our big thing is take advantage when they give you rest. Obviously, we would have liked not to play back to back. … We’ve had a chance to work on our game here and give our guys an opportunity to get fresh. We need to get started on time tonight and play a good game. We’ve got to improve as a team.”

For a veteran like Daniel Alfredsson, the schedule in an Olympic year is nothing new, and the Wings still need to use is as a positive.

“I think it’s a good situation. We played three games, now we had time to work on the things we needed to work on,” Alfredsson said. “It gives us a chance to evaluate and get some practice time.

“We know this year there’s the Olympic break for most of the guys. It’s always been like this. October is slow, November and December get a little busier and then it’s really hectic in January and February and March.

“You kind of know how to deal with everything. I think it’s very important to look at the positive side of it. We’re not the only team that’s going through this. Everybody is in the same boat, so make the most of it.”

As for tonight’s game, aside from right wing Radim Vrbata who recorded a hat trick in a 4-1 season-opening win over the New York Rangers, the Wings are in for a challenge against the Coyotes’ young lineup.

“Obviously, a real mobile back end, I mean, (Oliver) Ekman-Larsson I think is a real good player,” Babcock said. “(Keith) Yandle can really skate. (David) Rundblad looks like he’s going to be a player. (David) Schlemko they can move the puck on the back. (Mike) Smith can really move the puck and is a huge goaltender when he’s dialed in. Solid down the middle suddenly with (Martin) Hanzal, (Mike) Ribeiro and (Antoine) Vermette, should be real solid. They’ve got a real good looking team.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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