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Trio could return this week

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Jimmy Howard suffered a broken right index finger in early February. He hopes to return from a groin injury this week. (Photo by Getty Images)

The Red Wings may likely see three more key players come off of the injury list this week with goalie Jimmy Howard, defenseman Jonathan Ericsson and forward Johan Franzen returning to the lineup, hopefully, by Friday.

Ericsson and Franzen both said Monday that they haven’t ruled out Wednesday’s game at Columbus, though Friday’s home game against Nashville is more likely for all three players.

After Monday’s morning skate, coach Mike Babcock was surprised to learn that Ericsson, who has missed 13 games with a fractured left wrist, wasn’t ready to return tonight.

“He was shooting the puck through the end of the rink today,” Babcock said. “But they (team medical staff) keep telling me he's not, so I don't know.”

If the Wings’ injured trio returns no later than Friday it would give them five tune-up games to prepare for the Stanley Cup playoffs, which begin April 11.

Howard said that his strained groin is feeling better and a return Friday against the Predators is “on the right track.”

“I’ve been working here pretty hard, doing a lot of treatment,” Howard said. “Felt like I can do everything. Now let's see if it holds up. Now continue to keep practicing for a couple of days and we'll see.”

The third piece to the injury puzzle is Franzen, who has had back spasms since he left practice early on March 16.

Franzen had an MRI that was negative, or as he said, “Just looked like an old hockey player's back. Yeah, a 32-year-old hockey player's back.”

Injuries have been a mounting problem for the Wings in the last month with 12 different players missing a total of 85 games due to injury or illness since Feb. 21.

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