Yet instead of celebrating his first goal since a skate blade filleted his right wrist like a fish last November, Modano was more reflective following the Red Wings practice Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena.
Coming to grips with an injury of such severity, and wondering if his 21-season career would end differently than on his terms, had Modano sound as if he were contemplating the future.
“When you feel the end is near and you’re trying to squeeze ever last drop out of you before it’s over; certainly here there are a lot of expectations to win and be successful,” he said. “The opportunity is there, so you want to come in and contribute a little bit and feel like you’re a meaningful piece to this team.”
The wrist injury sidelined Modano for 41 games. But since his return in late February, the all-time leading American-born player in NHL history, has a goal with five assists and a minus-2 rating in 12 games.
While there maybe some question in Modano’s voice, others in the Red Wings’ dressing room believe the Detroit-area native has plenty left in his tank.
“When he got hurt I thought that he was just getting better and better for us back in November,” Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom
said. “Now he’s getting his legs again, and he’s getting his hands and his timing back together.
“I think he’s going to be a great asset for us to have with his experience and with his speed that he still has. He can play the point on the power-play and can be a third-line center man or out on the wing.”
There are just nine games left in the Wings’ regular-season, which happened to be the number of games Modano needs to become the 14th player in NHL history to reach the 1,500 games-played plateau.
“Not much has happened meaningful here for me,” he said. “I’m just trying to get back into the flow of things. It took some time to get back up to speed. … It was slowly getting back on my game and thinking of it as a process again.”
If the process plays to his expectations, Modano will be a valuable contributor come playoff time.CATCHING THE CANUCKS:
The Red Wings face another pre-playoff test Wednesday when the Vancouver Canucks visit The Joe at 7:30 p.m. EDT. The league-leading Canucks are the third straight home opponent for the Wings that can claim a legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup this spring. Last Wednesday the Wings defeated Washington, 3-2, before falling to the Penguins, 5-4, in a shoot-out on Monday.
The Canucks are eight-points ahead of the Wings atop of the Western Conference standings.
“It’s more about the measuring stick of playing against the top team in the league right now,” Lidstrom said. “Look at their record and their specialty teams, they’re the tops in most categories. That’s the kind of team that you want to match yourself up against.”
Special teams have catapulted the Canucks to 47 wins this season. Their power-play unit leads the NHL at 24.8 percent with 66 goals with the man-advantage, meanwhile their penalty-kill has held opponents to 38 power-play tallies.
The Canucks also lead the league in goals-scored (238) and fewest goals allowed (172).
Still, the Red Wings are 2-1-0 against Vancouver this season with both teams scoring 11 times in the season-series.
“They’ve been some close games against them,” Lidstrom said. “They play real well defensively and they play a good system. They have guys who can score and they have the best power-play in the league, so they can score when they get an opportunity.”INJURY UPDATE:
After missing the last four games to be with his wife, who delivered the couple’s third child last Thursday, defenseman Ruslan Salei will be back in the lineup against Vancouver.
However, coach Mike Babcock indicated Tuesday that forwards Johan Franzen
, Todd Bertuzzi
, Jiri Hudler
and Pavel Datsyuk
will not be available for Wednesday’s game.
Babcock also said that he thought goalie Chris Osgood is still a question.