DETROIT - One step forward, two steps back.
That's what the Red Wings seem to be dealing with when it comes to injuries this season.
Defenseman Niklas Kronwall returned Sunday after missing eight games with a groin injury but now the team will be without Thomas Vanek and Dylan Larkin, at least for the short-term.
On Sunday against the Rangers, Vanek suffered a lower-body injury at the end of the first period and Larkin suffered an upper-body injury at the very end of the game.
"Larks I'm not counting on for the next two games," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "Vanek is day-to-day. He will not play in Boston. I wouldn't rule him out for Wednesday."
Vanek is tied with captain Henrik Zetterberg for the team lead in points with 31 and is tied with Larkin for the team lead in goals with 12.
"It's obviously not fun to lose guys," Zetterberg said. "But we've been through it this year plenty of games. Guys that are going to play are ready and they'll do a good job."
Blashill said Tomas Jurco would play for sure but the other forward to step in remains in question.
"I'm just going to try and play my game," Jurco said. "All I need are some lucky bounces. I need to score. I need to make some points. Playing good is not enough for me. I can't just play good because it doesn't make me stay in the lineup. I have to get some lucky bounce or something has to go my way to help me get some points."
Jurco has not played since Jan. 4 at Anaheim. He's been a healthy scratch the last eight games.
"I actually think Jurcs is a really good hockey player," Blashill said. "I think Jurcs can play in the NHL and be a good player in the NHL. He's got to go out and grab it. He's got to go out shift by shift. When Jurcs plays his best hockey he's skating on the forecheck, he's skating on the track and he allows his skill to do the rest. He's had opportunities to score this year and it hasn't gone in when he's had those opportunities but if he keeps getting opportunities he'll score eventually because I think he's got that kind of offensive talent. The No. 1 thing for him to make sure he does a good job skating."
Jurco has no points and is minus-3 in 11 games this season.
One option became available when Drew Miller cleared waivers at noon Monday. The Wings placed him on waivers Sunday to make room for Kronwall on the 23-man roster.
Miller has been loaned to the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins but could return quickly because of the injury situation.
Steve Ott, who has a shoulder injury, is eligible to come off of 7-day injured reserve but might not be quite ready, even though he practiced Monday.
"It's kind of up to everybody to see what's going on and see what we have," Ott said. "We've got to see how I feel tomorrow, to be honest with you. We took a lot of shots on it today and I'm doing a lot of stuff in the gym, so we'll see tomorrow how it feels."
Ott initially suffered the injury in the Centennial Classic in Toronto and played with it in Dallas Jan. 12.
"It was actually when I was in the fight with (Matt) Martin there, just the way the boards were a lot lower and when I kind of leaned on the boards, I tried to grab the boards during the fight and it kind of torqued up my shoulder a little bit," Ott said. "Those things happen in fighting and whatnot. Now it's starting to turn the page, I feel."
Because neither Vanek nor Larkin is considered a long-term injury, Ott remains optimistic.
"It's been a really tough year for injuries, to say the least," Ott said. "From high-end players to everybody. It's tough. A guy like Darren Helm comes back and it's almost uplifting now. As you continue to get guys back - Abby (Justin Abdelkader) came back, now Helmer came back - you're getting pieces back and you see the guys on IR that I've been skating with, they're starting to get healthy as well. Hopefully this All-Star break can't come quick enough. Once we try to collect points from these last couple of games here and then maybe reset things and hopefully everybody can come back and we'll have a strong, healthy team."
Brendan Smith and Jimmy Howard both remain out with knee injuries.
BOSTON, TORONTO: The Wings have two games left before the All-Star break, at Boston Tuesday and at home against Toronto Wednesday.
"They are big games, division games with teams that we're chasing," Zetterberg said. "So we know that going down the stretch there is going to be a lot of those games, which is a good thing for us, if we win those games we're gaining ground. That's what we have to do."
Currently the Wings are sixth in the Atlantic Division with 48 points in 47 games.
The Boston Bruins are third with 52 points in 50 games but have lost two in a row and are 3-5-2 in their last 10.
Like the Wings, the Bruins have not had the best success at home. They are 10-12-0 at TD Garden.
"It's huge. Huge points obviously," Ott said. "They've been in kind of a little skid as well and if you look at the standings, who would have thought Tampa Bay sits at the bottom of the pile right now? So I think everybody is so close. When four points separates you from being in a playoff spot and from one of those teams being out of it on the bottom. Right now there's a lot of hockey left to be played. Almost half the year left. When you have that much, it's ultra important right now to collect the points."
The Wings have played both teams recently, a wild 6-5 win over the Bruins at Joe Louis Arena on Jan. 18 and the 5-4 overtime loss in the Centennial Classic against the Maple Leafs on New Year's Day.
The Leafs are fourth in the Atlantic with 51 points but they have only played 44 games.
The Leafs are 6-2-2 in their last 10 and are 10-6-6 on the road.
"There's no question there's teams we're trying to jump and then in order to jump teams you got to beat them at some point, so we got to find a way to do that," Blashill said. "Good opportunities for us. Every game is crucial. We got to have great process but we got to win games here. Certainly the next two games are teams we got to jump."