DETROIT – Red Wings center Stephen Weiss has been eyeing Wednesday ever since he was sidelined by a sports hernia in December. Although he’s been on track to return for Detroit’s trip to Montreal, Weiss will not be available for either of this week’s Atlantic Division games.
“Not going to be playing then next two games, I think, still need a few more days of practice,” Weiss said. “Obviously the decision will be up the coaching staff when they think I’ll be ready to come back and play in a game and make a decision whether they want me to play a game in Grand Rapids or just play up with us. Those decisions will be made in the next few days.”
Weiss was supposed to participate in a one-game conditioning stint with the Griffins Sunday, but stayed in Detroit to continue practicing with the Wings.
“I think for the game on Sunday, I only had two or three practices and one day of contact, so I was a little apprehensive about playing so quickly,” Weiss said. “And today, again, it would have been only four or five practices. I’m feeling really good and been having no setbacks, it’s a matter of getting your conditioning and your legs to where they need to be to play in a game this time of year.”
Sitting in the final wild-card spot with 24 games remaining on the regular season schedule, there’s no doubt that it’s a pivotal time of year for the Wings. And they’ll have to begin the final stretch without their captain as well, who will be out for at least eight weeks after undergoing back surgery.
“It’s huge I mean he’s our leader, he’s the one who drives the train in here and you know it’s going to be tough without him but it’s no excuse,” goaltender Jimmy Howard said of losing Henrik Zetterberg. “There’s still a lot of great hockey players in this dressing room and we just have to play our game.”
But Zetterberg and Weiss aren’t the only players the Wings will be missing as the league resumes play. Center Pavel Datsyuk (lower-body) is uncertain if he’ll dress against Montreal, and expects that decision to be made following Wednesday’s morning skate. Defenseman Jakub Kindl (MCL sprain) missed Detroit’s last two games before the Olympic break, and is hoping to return March 4 against New Jersey.
“I don’t think I’m going to play this weekend,” Kindl said. “But I feel better. I feel good, I don’t feel any pain, but I feel my right leg is just a little weaker than the other one. I just need to practice and get that confidence back in my knee.”
Despite the continuous number of injuries, the Wings are hopeful that Johan Franzen will return to the lineup sooner rather than later, as the forward has been cleared by doctors to resume playing. Franzen will be evaluated after Wednesday’s morning skate to determine if he will dress against the Canadians.
“Today was really good,” Franzen said. “Sunday was not as good as today but today was good. We’ll decide tomorrow, at the morning skate.”
Injuries have plagued the Wings throughout the entire season, but coach Mike Babcock understands that’s a part of the game he can’t control or worry about as he prepares his team for a tight playoff race.
“Well you just deal with it,” Babcock said. “No sense worrying about it. We gotta find a way to get in (to the playoffs). That’s what we’re going to do.”
BABCOCK RETURNS: After leading Canada to its second straight gold medal, Wings coach Mike Babcock couldn’t help but smile while reflecting on his unforgettable experience in Sochi.
“I mean being an Olympian is a special thing. Obviously being with all the other Canadian athletes and sharing the Olympic experience with country members is a special, special thing. Anytime you get to hear your national anthem sung in a different part of the world it makes it that much more special so those are all things I’ll remember. But our team played hard and played well and was organized, was determined and in the end we were rewarded for it.”
And although coaches weren’t presented with medals, Babcock knows a gold medal will probably find its way to Detroit, just as it did four years ago.
“Well I mean they gave us a medal last time,” Babcock said. “They found a way to get us a medal last time and a nice ring and I’m sure they will again this time so I’m not that concerned.”
SPROUL RECALLED: Defenseman Ryan Sproul was recalled from the Grand Rapids Griffins Tuesday, and will travel with the Wings to Montreal and Ottawa for the team’s back-to-back Atlantic Division matchups.
“I was pretty surprised,” Sproul said. “I didn’t know what was going on up here. Just expected to come to this practice and head back to Milwaukee. But I’m real excited to be up here.
“We’re going to take it day by day and see how it goes.”
Follow Andrea Nelson on Twitter @Nelson_Andrea