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Red Wings are turning the corner

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Nicklas Lidstrom and Mike Babcock will make a decision after Saturday's morning skate on whether the Wings' captain will play against Carolina. (Photo by Dave Reginek)
DETROIT – Following Friday’s morning practice, coach Mike Babcock was under the impression that the Red Wings were getting a legendary defenseman back in the lineup for Saturday’s game against Carolina Hurricanes.

“Nick is in, isn’t he?” Babcock replied when reporters ask the coach for an update on team captain Nicklas Lidstrom, who has missed 11 straight games with a deep ankle bruise.

But Lidstrom was less confident, though he didn’t totally rule out a return for Saturday, either.

“No, it's just that we don't want it to get any worse, when I skate tomorrow morning, so it's still day by day,” Lidstrom said. “It's hard to say. We'll see what they want to do, see what the coaching staff and trainers want to do, that's why it's hard to say right now whether I'm going to play or not. Just have to wait it out tomorrow and see how it feels.”

The Wings returned veteran minor-leaguer Doug Janik to Grand Rapids on Thursday, opening the door for the return of one of three injured defensemen – Lidstrom, Jakub Kindl or Jonathan Ericsson.

If it’s not Lidstrom on Saturday, the most likely to rejoin the lineup is Kindl, who finally participated in a full-contact practice on Friday for the first time since suffering the strained oblique muscle on March 4.

“I didn't feel any pains,” Kindl said. “The practice I had, I think was ready to go. I didn't feel any pain shooting today. Now it's up to coaches. … I'm assuming I'll be even better tomorrow.”

Babcock will meet with trainer Piet Van Zant and his coaching staff on Saturday before making a final decision on who – if anyone – returns to the lineup.

“I will go talk to Piet and then we’ll watch in the morning and then in the end – it’s great to look ready, you have to practice good enough to be ready, Nick did,” Babcock said. “Obviously that’s real positive and we want him to get back and help us get out of our zone quicker. I think we’ve done a real good job in our zone, but we’re not as quick and not as fast a team. Our gap’s not as tight, we’re not as efficient on sort-outs, we’re not near as good on the power play, you go through the whole thing and he’s a big part of everything.”

Ericsson, who is recovering from a fractured left wrist, is hoping to return next week against the Blue Jackets, either Monday at JLA or Wednesday in Columbus.

Forward Johan Franzen skated for about 20-minutes, but left the ice before Friday’s practice got under way.

“I skated kind of half-hard with no problems, but I can’t do too much, so I did what I could,” said Franzen, who began experiencing back spasms last Friday and missed the last two games.

Franzen would like to return next week, but said, “I have to skate at 100 percent and when I do that then I’ll know more. Probably need two good days and we’ll know more.”

While dealing with the multitude of injuries, which has decimated the Wings’ roster over the last month, has been maddening, Babcock won’t fretting over it.
“There’s nothing I can do about it. That’s a waste of energy,” he said. “So this injury thing, I’m a big believer in this: you do good things and good things happen. And I’m a big believer in the fact that other people are getting opportunity and we, whether you want to believe it or not, you have to improve your game so much when you can’t score.

“Now we’ve been in a lot of games and it’s been tight and it’s been exciting, but we’re hanging in there. Usually the game is 60-40 in our way, not 50-50 or 40-60. And so that’s been the biggest difference, and yet it allows us to keep focused and keep working and keep battling and keep pushing our players and some of the big guys on our team get freshened up.”

And with eight games remaining on the schedule the Wings need to fight through the injuries and grab wins if they hope to stay ahead of Nashville and Chicago in the Western Conference playoff seedings.

“It just doesn’t happen by accident, you have to keep pushing through it and be desperate, focused and poised and we’ll get feeling better about ourselves,” Babcock said. “I think we’re starting to play better and that’s a positive thing for us and if we get one more D … that makes us a better team.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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