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Waiting Game

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
ROMULUS, Mich. – After eliminating the Phoenix Coyotes in four straight games of their best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinals series, the Red Wings will spend Easter weekend away from the rink.

The team returned to Detroit late Thursday afternoon and plans to practice Friday morning at Joe Louis Arena. They’ll take Saturday and Sunday off before getting back to work next week with a planning eye toward whomever it is they’ll play in the second round.

This is the 12th time in the past 16 playoff seasons that the Wings have reached the conference semifinals.

But the immediate key for the Wings is getting a pair of the league’s all-time best career playoff-performers healthy again and back in service.

Henrik Zetterberg has been sidelined since suffering a knee injury in the final week of the regular-season at Carolina. However, he skated each day in Arizona, and the coaching staff is confident that in all likelihood they will have him back for Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.

Johan Franzen missed Game 4 with a lower body injury. The decision to hold him out of the lineup came after pre-game warm-ups Wednesday at Arena. The NHL’s sixth best active player in points per game average (.923), Franzen has always been a beast come playoff time for the Wings.

Franzen is one spot behind Zetterberg (.938) on the NHL’s all-time points per playoff game list. Franzen scored two goals and added an assist in the first three games of the Phoenix series, so the Wings definitely hope that the extra 8-9 days of rest will help the mending process.

“We have a few guys that can really use the time off, and the extra time with the medical trainers,” Wings forward Drew Miller said. “So we’ll get back and see what our schedule looks like, but definitely we’re really happy with our win in the series and looking forward to the next one.”

As far as determining their next opponent, the possibilities are down to four teams: San Jose, Anaheim, Nashville or Chicago. The Wings won’t play the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks nor Los Angeles in the second round.

Here’s how each Round 2 scenario can play out for the Wings:
1. Detroit will play the winner of the Nashville/Anaheim series if: Vancouver defeats Chicago and Los Angeles defeats San Jose OR if San Jose beats Los Angeles and Chicago beats Vancouver.

2. Detroit will face San Jose if: Vancouver beats Chicago. (the outcome of Nashville/Anaheim won’t matter).

3. Detroit will play Chicago if: Los Angeles defeats San Jose. (the outcome of Nashville/Anaheim won’t matter).

However the other Western series pan out, the Wings learned one important lesson from going seven-games with Phoenix in their opening round: reach four wins as soon as possible … and rest.

“You know, winning the other night and putting ourselves up 3-0 we knew they were going to come out with a strong effort and play their best game – and I thought they did to – but we really wanted to win (Wednesday) and not have to go back and play a fifth game in Detroit,” captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “We put ourselves into a great position in the third period, by going in tied, and them having the pressure to win. I thought we stayed patient, stayed within our game plan. We did get some lucky bounces on the goals we scored there late in the game, but I thought we earned some too by working hard.”

Follow Bill Roose on twitter: @RooseBill

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