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Notebook: Williams hopes to skate soon

by Michael Caples / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT -- As the injury count continues to mount for the Red Wings, Jason Williams is optimistic about his return to the ice.

Williams, who suffered a broken right fibula on Nov. 7, said Friday that he is improving, and that he hopes to return to the Wings' line-up later this month.

He said that the ankle is "a little tight and everything ... it definitely feels better. I’ve started putting more weight on it every day, and I’ll talk to the doctor tonight. Hopefully I can get rid of these crutches by tomorrow or Monday, because tomorrow will be five weeks.”

Before his injury, Williams had two goals and five assists in 15 games.

“I’m riding the bike now, and there’s no pain in my leg, so that’s a good sign,” he said. “I just have to make sure I listen to what my body’s telling me, and if I feel any pain I have to back off. At this point I think I can try to push it a little bit, but at the same point I have to be careful.”

Williams said the biggest problem about getting back onto the ice is getting his swollen ankle into his skate.

“Later this month would be great," he said. "I’d like to, that definitely would be a goal of mine. It just sort of depends on how it reacts when I have weight on it and things like that.

"The next step is just getting the conditioning up and putting my foot into the skate. Putting my foot into the shoe at the beginning of this week was kind of tight, but I think the swelling is starting to go down a little bit more around my foot, and in a couple weeks if everything is going well and it doesn’t hurt to get my foot in the skate I could start skating lightly.”

DUCKS MATCH-UP: When asked about Anaheim’s struggles this season, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock pointed out that they are only five points behind his team in the Western Conference standings.

“I don’t know, I’ve got to be careful what I say, because when I looked today, they’re not much behind us," Babcock said. "They’ve got good players, they’ve changed their back end significantly, so that makes it an adjustment for them. They were relying -- until (Saku) Koivu came back -- for one line to do the scoring. Now they have more. “

Koivu missed five games last month because of a groin strain. Since his return to the Ducks' line-up, Koivu has slumped, yeilding five points in the last 10 games.

Babcock said that the salary cap has taken a toll on the Ducks, much like it has on the Wings.

“When good players walk out the door, and you replace them with different players, you’re not as deep a team," he said. "They used to be a team that could roll out any line and play against you, and in that way they’re like us. The line-up they’ll face for us tonight, they know who can score for our team, there’s one group of them. And that just makes it easier team to play against.”

Goalie Jimmy Howard will start for the Wings, marking his third straight start. Babcock said his young goalie continues to impress the coaching staff.

“He’s been real good for us,” Babcock said. “He’s starting his sixth of seven here tonight, and if I’m not mistaken 10 of the last 13.”

Babcock is more focused on getting more help for Howard at the other end of the ice.

“We haven’t had to rely on goaltending over the last few years as much, we’ve been able to outscore our opponents … and now its more 50-50 games," Babcock said. "Last game our goaltender was real good, and we out-chanced the other team, they got the one and we didn’t get any. It’s kind of like being a pitcher on our team right now, when you’re out there and you’re not getting a whole lot of run-support, it makes it harder on you. But I think Howie’s been mentally tough, he’s playing big and he’s confident and he’s taken a real step. This is what we hoped when he spent all the time in the minors -- that he could come in and eventually be a starter, and only time will tell.”

FETISOV'S COMEBACK: Former Red Wings defenseman Slava Fetisov is attempting to make a professional hockey comeback in Russia.

Fetisov will play with CSKA Moscow in the Contential Hockey League on Friday. The 51-year-old retired in 1998 after winning consecutive Stanley Cups with the Wings. The hall-of-famer is now a member of the Russian Parliament and president of CSKA.

Nicklas Lidstrom, who played with Fetisov for four seasons, said that he’s interested to see how his former teammate does in his return.

“It’s somewhat surprising, but I don’t know, we’ll have to wait and see what happens tonight," Lidstrom said. "I just talked to our trainer, and he said the game is this afternoon, our time. I think I read somewhere that last time he played was here in '98, so that’s impressive. I know he’s been skating a little bit over there, but I don’t think he’s been skating with guys in their 20s, maybe 40s and 50s and 60s maybe. But anyways, he’s making a comeback so it’ll be exciting, fun to watch.”

Lidstrom laughed when asked if he will play until he is 51, and said there was no chance.

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