DETROIT - With 22 games in the next 41 days, the end of Detroit’s regular season may be in sight, but the club’s injuries are most certainly not.
Center Pavel Datsyuk, who suffered a lower-body injury in January, didn’t practice Monday and will not make the trip to New Jersey for Detroit’s matchup against the Devils Tuesday night.
“Can’t play,” Datsyuk said of the lingering injury. “Issue with my knee. We’re looking day-to-day, hard to stay anything.”
Datsyuk’s status for Thursday’s game against Columbus is uncertain, and while the center’s injury is a concern, general manager Ken Holland said the club’s main focus right now is finding a way to win with the healthy players in its dressing room.
“Well I think you’re more concerned we gotta win a game tomorrow and we gotta find 20 guys that healthy can give us a chance to win,” Holland said. “If Pav’s healthy and can help us win he’ll be in the lineup.”
Joakim Andersson will take Datsyuk’s spot in the lineup Tuesday, centering a line with Gustav Nyquist and Johan Franzen.
“Well he’s just gotta be a guy who gets some pucks back, gotta be a guy who wins faceoffs and plays well in detail and the rest will look after itself,” coach Mike Babcock said of Andersson. “Just play and do what he does.”
Datsyuk isn’t the only center who will be missing from Detroit’s lineup against New Jersey. Stephen Weiss, who had surgery in December to repair a sports hernia, suffered a setback during Monday’s practice and the timeline for his return has yet to be determined.
“Weiss had a bit of a setback today so we’re going to send him for some pictures, get some more information tomorrow,” said Holland, who was originally expecting Weiss to return last week for the Wings’ first game after the Olympic break. “Today was a bad day for him.”
The injuries don’t end there, either. While Holland didn’t have an update on defenseman Jakub Kindl (MCL sprain), the general manager anticipates forward Daniel Cleary (knee) will most likely miss Detroit’s next three games.
“He’s probably out for this week I would say,” Holland said. “He hurt his knee so he needs a few days here to heal.”
But with a number of injuries to key players as the trade deadline looms ahead, Holland doesn’t expect to look at the deadline unless he sees a “hockey trade.”
“I consider a hockey trade where you can get a player that’s going to be on your roster in September,” Holland said. “Because of where we are in the standings and because of the unknown with the number of our key players with regards to injury, it’s pretty difficult to step up and trade high draft picks and real top prospects in order to get short-term players when you’re not really sure about some key components of your team.”
For now, the Wings hope to build off of strong back-to-back road victories last week in Montreal and Ottawa as they advance into their condensed schedule. Currently occupying the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, Detroit has three games in the next four days as the club continues its quest to extend its playoff streak to 23 years.
“Guys here gotta be as fresh as can possibly be,” Babcock said. “I mean we had an Olympic break guys went to the Olympics and the other guys came back and had a few days off here. We’re ready to go, we’re excited about how we’re playing and we got a good club right now. We’re playing hard enough, we’re finding ways to win games so let’s just keep playing.”
BRODEUR FAREWELL: Martin Brodeur is expected to start in goal for New Jersey against the Red Wings Tuesday night. If the 41-year-old chooses to retire after the 2013-14 season, tomorrow could mark his last game against Detroit during his 21-year-career with the Devils.
“Lots of guys are good for a short period of time but to do it as long as they have and to be a star as long as he has, I mean obviously real high-end,” Babcock said. (Cory) Schneider’s played kind of their games, he’s a young guy up-and-comer and that happens to all of us, I mean someone else is going to end up with your job that’s just the way life is. But I mean he’s been a flat-out star and he’s stayed healthy.”
But defenseman Niklas Kronwall wasn’t too quick to rule Brodeur out for another season or two.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he hangs around another year, how good he still is,” Kronwall said. “You can only tip your hat to somebody like that. So much respect for a guy like that, what he’s done for the game of hockey. He’s one of those guys you’ll back on your career and say ‘I played against him.’ It’s been fun, I hope he continues because he’s still got some left in the tank.”
FIRST STAR: Forward Johan Franzen was named the NHL’s First Star of the week on Monday. Franzen recorded two assists against Montreal and earned a hat trick the following night in Ottawa, helping Detroit begin its post-Olympic break schedule with back-to-back road victories.
“It’s great to have him back, just as a person you feel for him for what he’s been going through,” Kronwall said. “And of course as a player he’s a huge part of this team. He’s one of those guys who can score out of nowhere, make things happen out of nowhere. He’s a big part of our team.”