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The Malik Report

Red Wings-Blackhawks set-up: Wings need to battle tide of home defeats against Chicago

Today's going to be a little bit surreal in more ways than one. Nicklas Lidstrom (in town to visit pals, recruit Danny DeKeyser and then head down to Florida for a "spring break" trip with his family) and 85th-birthday boy Gordie Howe will attend today's matinee between the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks (12:30 PM EDT, NBC/NHL Network Canada/97.1 FM), and it's entirely possible that we'll see the team make some more roster moves as Johan Franzen and Mikael Samuelsson may play today (farewell, Kent Huskins)...

But, regardless of who actually plays for the Wings after the team dons #9 commemorative jerseys during the pre-game skate, the Wings' players face a particularly stiff task: in beginning a slate of back-to-back games against the Blackhawks and Avalanche, today's opponent comes into town possessing a staggering 8-0-and-1 record at Joe Louis Arena and a 10-1-and-2 record against the Wings of late, and the Blackhawks will start a goalie opposite Jimmy Howard who boasts a 9-2-and-2 record against Detroit in Corey Crawford.

If that wasn't bad enough, and the fact that the Wings have dropped 2-1 OT and 2-1 shootout losses to Chicago (with the latter loss having come during an NBC matinee), and the Wings playing the Hawks both today and on April 12th...

The Wings're kind of back to square one in terms of breaking away from the playoff pack. Despite going 3-and-1 during its Western U.S. swing, the Ducks and Hawks--Chicago dropped a 2-1 decision to Anaheim on Friday--have been losing, and all the teams that are now the 17-12-and-5 Wings' foes in the Western Conference standings, like the Wild, Canucks, Kings and Sharks, have all been winning...

And the "playoff pack" is close behind. 7th-place Detroit's 39 points are 3 ahead of the St. Louis Blues, and behind the Blues...Sit the Stars, Oilers, Predators and Blue Jackets, all with 35 points.

This coming Thursday's opponent, the Coyotes, have 34 points thanks to a shootout loss to San Jose on Saturday night (the Sharks leapfrogged the Wings and now have 40 points), and perhaps only both Monday and Friday's opponent, the Colorado Avalanche, can be called "out" with 28 points, though back-to-back losses for the Wings would allow the Avs to climb right back into at least the "if we win out and get help, we can make it" playoff picture.

So the Wings are essentially back at the point where their next four games will determine whether they can stay ahead of the "playoff pack" or whether they're going to have to scratch and claw to earn a playoff spot as the April stretch drive grinds along.

If there is any "good" news for the Wings, it involves the fact that they won't see two Wing-killers today, as noted by ChicagoBlackhawks.com's Brad Boron...

The Blackhawks will once again be without the services of Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp when they face the Red Wings Sunday morning in Detroit, Head Coach Joel Quenneville announced after practice. Neither forward will make the trip to Michigan while recovering from their respective upper-body injuries, though both continue to practice with the team.

The good news on the Blackhawks' injury front is that Viktor Stalberg, who was hit by a puck late in the third period of Friday night's game against Anaheim, is expected to be in the lineup for the rivalry game.

Quenneville also announced that netminder Corey Crawford will start the game Sunday, his first start Monday's game against Los Angeles.

Otherwise, the Hawks are a pretty ornery bunch going into today's game. In addition to Friday's 2-1 loss to the Ducks, they've gone 4-and-4 since the Colorado Avalanche snapped the Hawks' 23-game unbeaten streak, and, as ESPN Chicago's Scott Powers notes, Hossa and Sharp's absences due to "upper-body injuries" have damaged Chicago's cause:

The Blackhawks have gone 4-5 without Sharp and 2-3 without Hossa this season. The Blackhawks are 20-0-3 with both players in the lineup this season.

If you want to watch Powers' video of Patrick Kane talking about the Hawks' injuries, or call-up Jeremy Morin speaking to the Chicago Tribune's Brian Hamilton, enjoy, and ditto for the Chicago Sun-Times' video of Marian Hossa talking about his "lower-body injury," but Hamilton explains why the Hawks called up the Rockford IceHogs' 3rd-best scorer:

"When you miss key guys, initially, you can find ways (to compensate)," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Over time, maybe you get tested a little differently. But we're getting a chance to find out about some players. Jimmy Hayes has had a nice stint. (Michael Frolik) gets an audition up there with Johnny (Toews') line, (Morin) gets in. You find things out about your team. It's not like we're in experimental mode here, but this is where we're at."

They are wondering where some of the young talent has been, actually. Andrew Shaw has one goal in his last nine games. Brandon Saad has zero in his last 10. Hayes has one goal in his seven appearances. Michael Frolik's two-goal outburst against the Kings was followed by two games without a point.

No one expects Hossa or Sharp production levels. But the Hawks aren't getting much production at all, though they won't peg their recent mini-slump to depth challenges.

"That's not really a good excuse because everyone has injuries in the league," winger Patrick Kane said. "But they're two big players, and they help in a lot of different ways. Obviously there are some younger guys who have a chance to step up and fill a void right now. It's a challenge for everyone, including myself, to try to grasp."

For now, everyone will see if Morin can get a handle in his second career NHL stint. He recorded 49 points in 59 games for AHL Rockford.

"I've been getting my shot off, I've been getting a lot more shots recently, and kind of burying my opportunities," the winger said. "I'm playing with players who hook me up, so it has been nice."

...

"It's something every team goes through," goalie Corey Crawford said. "Obviously we want our key guys back. But until then, we still have a job to do."

Comcast Sportsnet Chicago's Tracey Myers both spoke to Morin and discussed the Hawks' desire to reestablish their fundamentals during a brief Saturday practice...

“We definitely want to get back on track to how we were playing during the streak and even on the road recently,” said Corey Crawford, who will start against the Wings tomorrow. “Our last road trip we were on our game. The last couple games at home -- especially against, L.A., I didn’t have my best game -- there were little breakdowns here and there.”

A game against one of their long-standing rivals could be motivation enough to get back on track. The Blackhawks and Wings played another classic in their first meeting in early March, with the Blackhawks winning in a shootout; repeating that game wouldn’t be a bad idea.

“You look at the games the first half of the season, that was one of the games that stood out in terms of pace and intensity, the excitement and a huge two points at the end,” Quenneville said. “We know the importance of the games and how close teams are bunched up in our conference. We’re disappointed with the result last night. Let’s get back on the other side of it.”

The Blackhawks need to tap into the workmanlike mentality that led to so much success earlier.

“We have to skate and support he puck all over the ice,” Shaw said. “When all four lines are going, that’s when we play our best. We have to commit to the systems and we’ll be fine. We have to get back to the simple things, what we did early in the year. If we do that this last stretch, we’ll be fine.”

The Blackhawks are hardly in panic mode. If they were, they’d be putting Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp in bubble wrap and sending them back on the ice. They’ve slipped a little, but have maintained No. 1 in the West. It’s about consistent play, and the Blackhawks want to get that back now.

“This is a great team. We’re competitive,” Crawford said. “It’s pretty hard to play a full season playing your best all year, every game. Obviously you try to do that, but here and there, there are going to be letdowns. The thing is you have to try and get back to your game as quick as possible.”

And she pondered whether the Wings might provide the tonic that the Hawks need to get back on track:

When the Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings square off at Joe Louis Arena Sunday morning, they might have a bit of a smile on their faces. After all, they’ve lost just one regulation game in Detroit dating back to the 2009-10 season.

There’s no rhyme or reason for the success rate there. The Blackhawks have been above the Red Wings in the standings during some of those seasons, desperately chasing them in others. Yet whenever they go to Detroit, they get points. The last time they lost in regulation there was Oct. 8, 2009.

But just writing in another Blackhawks victory in Detroit would be presumptuous. These are still the Red Wings, who may not be having their best season but are still formidable. And they’ve played better as of late, winning five of their last seven games. Even though their last game is a 2-0 loss against the San Jose Sharks, the Wings are liking the direction they’re going in right now.

...

The Blackhawks haven’t been as sharp, or even-keeled, lately. After rattling off 24 games without a regulation loss, they were bound to have some bumps in the road. And they have. The Ducks have been the biggest thorn in their side, beating them in the waning minutes in all three of their matchups. Defenseman Niklas Hjalamrsson said the Blackhawks have to get back to basics.

“We’re just going to try to find our game again, the way we did during the streak. The way we played team defense there, we haven’t been doing that the last couple games,” he said. “(It’s about) playing simple, not trying to do too much. Things have been going pretty easy so far with our streak and all of that. You need some ups and downs in a season. You have to learn from it as a team. That’s what we have to do.”

The Blackhawks have found their game plenty in Detroit the past few seasons. Perhaps they do it again. Perhaps the Wings continue their on-the-rise trend. Either way, it will be classic Blackhawks-Red Wings.

As the Chicago Tribune's Hamilton noted, the Hawks feel that they've let some games slip away lately...

"It's something we've talked about," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said Saturday. "Those are some significant points we left out there. You want to be in a position where you … see yourself getting that quality ice, you want to see yourself having success in those situations. … Hopefully we have the right recipe for the guys … (to) get the job done at that time."

In losing three of four games, the Hawks have surrendered tying and/or go-ahead goals with less than six minutes to play in each defeat. In the last two, against the Kings and Ducks, the scores arrived with 1 minute, 27 seconds and 2:08 left, respectively.

Quenneville insisted it's "more random than X's and O's," that each context is different and therefore doesn't constitute a trend. But he still is looking for players to seize the opportunity rather than shy from it.

"When it gets to those tight points in the game, we have to notice the clock and notice that you want to be out there in a situation like that to help prevent a goal or maybe … create some momentum," winger Patrick Kane said.

..

No sea change in the goaltender rotation as Corey Crawford gets the nod against the Red Wings on Sunday after two straight Ray Emery starts. Crawford is 9-1-2 in his last 12 starts against the bitter rivals, giving up just 23 total goals.

"I have to prepare myself to play my game either way, whether I play well against that team or I don't," Crawford said.

Quenneville also discussed the Hawks' late-game struggles with the Chicago Sun-Times' Mark Potash...

‘‘I think we’re fine,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said after Saturday’s practice before Sunday’s game against the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. ‘‘You look at what we’ve given up against Anaheim for 55 minutes in all three games — we gave up one goal the whole game. Late in the game . . . that’s when they’re scoring. Other than that, [allowing late goals] has been the only unusual stat. It’s tough to say why. I wouldn’t say it’s a trend.’’

...

‘‘Last five minutes of the game you don’t get points . . . those are significant points,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘When it doesn’t work, you try some different things. Hopefully, we’ve got the right recipe to get the job done.’’

The Hawks are 4-5-0 in their last nine games — not an unusual rut even for championship contenders over the course of a season. But when you started out 21-0-3, it gives the impression their slip is showing.

‘‘We know what the problem is,’’ Patrick Kane said. ‘‘We haven’t been playing that great. We’ve been giving up leads late. [But] I think it’s sometimes good to face a little adversity, build our group up better as a team. If we go through it now, hopefully we learn from it, and it doesn’t happen [in the playoffs].’’

But you'll have to pardon my lack of sympathetic tears after reading Sharp and Kane talk to ESPN Chicago's Mark Rogers about facing "adversity":

“It’s definitely something that’s different this year,” Sharp said of comparing this season’s adversity. “We’ve had plenty of losses in Chicago over the years.”

“I think we’re a confident team and we’ve shown that all season long,” he said. “I think you ask our coaches, any coach in the league, I think you know any team faces adversity throughout the year whether it’s injuries, whether it’s a losing streak, whether it’s anything. You can look at it as a positive that it’s something we have to overcome.”

...

“We obviously had a great start to the season and felt like we kept winning, so we haven’t faced too much adversity, except for now -- where our record hasn’t been as great in the past little while,” Kane said. “So we’re definitely looking to improve, hopefully get a better feeling in the room than we had the last game, the Anaheim game.”

...

The Blackhawks are confident their problems are fixable, though. Kane thought it would be different a story if they were losing lopsidedly.

“We’ve been in the game the whole time,” Kane said. “It’s not like we’re getting blown out. But we’re giving up those late goals and we’re not getting any points out of those games. I think it’s something we can improve on.”

Sharp agreed. He said the Blackhawks were aware of their recent struggles, but they weren’t panicking.

“We’ll let you guys do the panicking,” Sharp said. “The urgency in here is to win, don’t get me wrong. We want to win. I don’t think panic is a good word for it.”

According to both the Chicago Sun-Times' Mark Lazerus and the Chicago Daily Herald's Tim Sassone, the Hawks were trying to pry Lubomir Visnovsky from the Islanders prior to his re-signing with the Islanders, and they're now interested in Islanders captain Mark Streit (a defenseman) and center Frans Nielsen, so the team may not be panicking, but its management is starting to get antsy.

NHL.com's Brian Hunter slowly but surely transitions us from the Hawks' to the Red Wings' perspectives via his game preview...

Big story: It's going to be tough for the Blackhawks and Red Wings to top the show they put on before a national-TV audience and the Joe Louis Arena crowd four weeks ago, but you can count on both teams to try. Detroit broke a scoreless tie early in the third period and looked set to deal Chicago its first regulation loss of the season before Kane scored a power-play goal with 2:02 remaining to force overtime, and later won it in the shootout.

Blackhawks [team scope]: Since beginning the season on a historic 21-0-3 run, Chicago has dropped five of nine. In the first four of those defeats, the Blackhawks yielded an astonishing 21 goals. Friday night's loss to the Ducks at United Center had nothing to do with porous defense or goaltending, just a tight battle that saw the Hawks fall 2-1 on a Sheldon Souray goal with 2:08 remaining. Kane had a power-play goal early in the third period that temporarily drew them even.

"You're never happy with a loss, but you know you're going to lose a couple during the year," said goalie Ray Emery, who made 22 saves. "You just have to correct mistakes if there are mistakes to be corrected and move on."

Red Wings [team scope]: Gordie Howe, "Mr. Hockey," turns 85 on Sunday and Detroit players will wear his No. 9 during warm-ups. This is the first game back off a four-game road trip for the Red Wings, who had to be pretty satisfied to gain six of a possible eight points. They could have been perfect, were it not for an inability to put a puck past Sharks goalie Antti Niemi on Thursday. Niemi stopped 27 shots and outdueled Jimmy Howard (22 saves) to deal the Wings a 2-0 defeat.

...

Who's hot: Kane has six goals and nine assists during an eight-game points streak for the Blackhawks. Duncan Keith has a goal and seven assists over his past six games. … Howard stopped 88 of 92 shots on the Red Wings' road trip, a .957 save percentage.

Injury report: Chicago is without forwards Patrick Sharp (shoulder) and Marian Hossa (upper body). … Detroit forward Mikael Samuelsson (hand) could be activated off injured reserve for Sunday's game. Johan Franzen (lower body) is day-to-day. Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder) has been sent to Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League on a conditioning assignment. Defenseman Kyle Quincey (cheekbone) and forwards Darren Helm (back) and Todd Bertuzzi (back) are on injured reserve.

The Chicago Tribune offers a simple statistical preview...

Series: Hawks 2-0.

Last meeting: Hawks won 2-1 in a shootout March 3 at Detroit.

Probable goaltenders: Corey Crawford, 13-4-3, 2.01 gaa; Red Wings, Jimmy Howard, 14-9-4, 2.36.

Team comparison

Averages per game (NHL rank)
HAWKS  (25-5-3)  CATEGORY  WINGS(17-12-5)
3.18 (3)  Goals for  2.59 (18)
2.12 (2)  Goals against  2.44 (8)
18.0 (17)  Power-play pct.  17.4 (21)
84.5 (6)  Penalty-kill pct.  78.9 (23)
                               

Storyline: The Hawks have dropped three of their last four games. Patrick Kane has remained red-hot with an eight-game points streak (six goals, nine assists). In their last nine games at Joe Louis Arena, the Hawks have posted an 8-0-1 record. The Wings have won 5 of 7 and likely will have forwards Johan Franzen (lower body) and Mikael Samuelsson (finger) in the lineup after missing time with injuries.

And the AP also adds stats to the mix:

[Hawks coach Joel] Quenneville's club leads Anaheim by three points atop the West with one game in hand and 15 to play. Additionally, Chicago has built a 14-point cushion over second-place Detroit in the Central Division.

...

A possible first-round opponent for Chicago could be Detroit, and matchups between these bitter rivals usually are as close as they can get. The first two meetings this season went past regulation, and the Blackhawks won both by 2-1 scores as they improved to 10-1-2 over the past 13 meetings. The last nine have all been one-goal games.

Nick Leddy scored in overtime Jan. 27 in Chicago, and Patrick Kane, who has six goals and nine assists during an eight-game point streak, netted the tying goal late in the third period before scoring the shootout winner at Detroit on March 3.

Chicago is 8-0-1 in its last nine trips to Joe Louis Arena, though the Red Wings have earned at least a point in six of seven there and will be retuning home after completing a 3-1-0 road trip with Friday's 2-0 loss to San Jose.

...

The Red Wings had won five of six prior to Friday and have been pleased overall with their play. They had scored a power-play goal in each of their previous eight games and will look to break through against a Chicago penalty kill that has snuffed out its opponents' last nine chances over five games.

"Once the playoffs come it's not going to go your way every single night," said Jimmy Howard, who has a 1.79 goals-average in his last six starts versus the Blackhawks. "I think we're on the right path here."

...

Crawford is 2-4-0 with a 3.25 GAA in his last six appearances - five starts - but has a 1.19 GAA while winning his last four against Detroit.

DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose also posited a game preview:

Expect Sunday to be a grind when the Red Wings host the Chicago Blackhawks in a special Easter matinee at Joe Louis Arena.

But that’s nothing new. It’s a grind every time the Red Wings and Blackhawks meet. The Central Division foes, who have been bitter rivals for the past 87 years, have played nine consecutive one-goal games, including two earlier contests this season. Both times the Blackhawks managed to eek out 2-1 overtime wins on Jan. 27 at Chicago and March 2 at Joe Louis Arena.

The Blackhawks, who opened the season with points in a NHL record 23 consecutive games, have cooled off lately. Meanwhile, the Red Wings are enjoying a resurgence of sorts, especially on the power play. Detroit has scored at least one power-play goal in eight straight games with six of those games coming on the road.

It’s a far cry from where the Red Wings’ special team unit began the season, going 0-for-36 on the power play over the first 10 games of the season. Since then, Detroit’s power play is 7-for-22 over the last six road games.

However, Sunday against the Blackhawks, as is always the case for the Red Wings, puck-possession will be key, though Chicago is tough to beat through the neutral zone. The Blackhawks lead the league with an astonishing 324 takeaways. The Carolina Hurricanes are a distant second at 289.

Blackhawks are 11-1-1 this season when leading after the first period. And since backup Ray Emery has started two straight games – he was between the pipes Friday at the United Center against Anaheim – it’s more than probable that Corey Crawford will get the start against the Red Wings’ Jimmy Howard.

PLAYER TO WATCH: G COREY CRAWFORD – In each of his last four starts against the Red Wings, Crawford has come away victorious, while holding Detroit to a single goal in three of those games. While the Montreal native has never shut out the Red Wings in 13 career starts, he always seems to play his best against them. Against the Red Wings, Crawford has post a 9-2-2 record with a 1.88 goals-against average, which are his personal bests versus any Western Conference opponent. … This season, he has appeared in 20 games, posting a 13-4-3 record with two shutouts, a 2.02 GAA and a .922 save percentage. He shares eighth in the league in wins, is fourth in GAA and seventh in save percentage. He’s also tied for sixth in the league in shutouts. … Outside of Columbus’s Nationwide Arena, Crawford seems to like Joe Louis Arena, where he is 5-1-1 with a 1.80 GAA and a career-best .949 save percentage.

In terms of the Red Wings' side of the story, the vast, vast majority of Saturday's news involved Danny DeKeyser's first practice as a Wing, but the team received very good news on the injury front and perhaps very bad news in the short term for Gustav Nyquist (the 23-man roster limit disappears on Wednesday), as DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose noted, because Johan Franzen (hip flexor) and Mikael Samuelsson (broken index finger) have been given medical clearance to play:

Franzen was hurt sometime during the second period of Thursday’s 2-0 loss at San Jose. He did not return Thursday, and was listed as day to day. Meanwhile, Samuelsson has appeared in just three games this season after he suffered a groin injury during the mini training camp in mid-January. He played in Minnesota on Feb. 17 only to suffer a non-dislocated break of the left index finger during the morning skate at Nashville on Feb. 19. If he plays Sunday, Samuelsson will be making his home debut at The Joe.

“Great news on Mule, obviously, we were concerned coming out of San Jose,” general manager Ken Holland told the media Saturday afternoon. “Samuelsson we felt was going to play tomorrow. Really he was cleared to play on Tuesday or Wednesday and it’s all conditioning, so he said he feels pretty good.”

Before both forwards can be inserted into the 23-man roster, a move will be needed, which will likely be Gustav Nyquist, who will be returned to Grand Rapids.

“Just want to wake up tomorrow morning and make sure that nothing’s changed with Franzen and nothing’s changed with Samuelsson,” Holland added.

Wings coach Mike Babcock gave tentative good news to the press regarding Darren Helm's recovery from a torn ligament in his back...

“I just saw all of the MRIs and all of that, and they were explaining it all to me, and it sounds like things are going in a positive direction for him,” Babcock said. “But we’ve been hearing that for a long time, so when he starts practicing every day and has no side-effects, we’ll know something good’s happened.”

As for Bertuzzi, the Wings’ coach was a little more optimistic.

“Bert came on the trip and got himself a little bit of sun, so he’s looking good,” Babcock said. “He’s skating better. Feeling good.”

NHL.com's Brian Hedger also took note of Babcock's comments regarding Helm and Kyle Quincey, who's expected to miss two more weeks as his broken cheekbone heals.

As noted on Saturday, the Wings sent Kent Huskins to the Flyers to make room for DeKeyser's signing, but the team will have to move one more player to make room for Samuelsson and Franzen:

Holland will need to clear one more roster spot for DeKeyser on Sunday, when his contract -- which was officially turned into the League on Saturday -- is expected to be approved. The Red Wings are expected to send somebody down to Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League to make room; the likely candidate is forward Gustav Nyquist.

...

Veteran power forward Todd Bertuzzi also continued skating with the Red Wings by practicing Saturday. He's struggling with a pinched nerve in his back that's kept him out for most of the season. It didn't sound like quite as good news for injured center Darren Helm, who's played one game and remains out indefinitely with a painful back injury that isn't healing.

"I just saw all of the MRIs and all of that, and they were explaining it all to me, and it sounds like things are going in a positive direction for him," Babcock said. "But we've been hearing that for a long time, so when he starts practicing every day and has no side effects, we'll know something good's happened."

Something good has happened for Detroit defenseman Kyle Quincey in the past week. After taking a puck to the face March 15 against the Edmonton Oilers, it's been determined he doesn't need corrective surgery and potentially could return in two weeks. Quincey participated in Saturday's practice while wearing a protective cage, which Babcock took as a positive development.

"[Quincey] was supposed to be out forever," Babcock said. "I saw him with a face mask out there skating pretty good [Saturday], so I imagine he'll be telling me that he's ready pretty soon, which I like."

Detroit sent veteran defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo to Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League on a conditioning assignment after he got medical clearance to return from a frustrating shoulder injury.

MLive's Ansar Khan also took note of the Wings' injury news...

“Great news on Mule,'' Holland said. “Obviously, we were concerned coming out of San Jose. Samuelsson we felt was going to play (Sunday). Really, he was cleared to play on Tuesday or Wednesday and it’s all conditioning, so he said he feels pretty good.''

The club needs to clear a roster spot for Samuelsson, who's been out since Feb. 19 with a broken left index finger. It might opt to reassign forward Gustav Nyquist to the Grand Rapids Griffins.

“We’ve got people we can send down that are on two-way (contracts) if we have to, that don’t need waivers, so there’s options there,'' Holland said. “Just want to wake up tomorrow morning and make sure that nothing’s changed with Franzen and nothing’s changed with Samuelsson.”

...

Helm update: Center Darren Helm (back) didn't practice with the team Saturday but has been skating on his own.

“Getting better,'' Holland said. “I think he’s a little frustrated. I think he hoped he was going to be better.''

Said coach Mike Babcock: “I just saw all of the MRIs and all of that, and they were explaining it all to me, and it sounds like things are going in a positive direction for him. But, we’ve been hearing that for a long time. So when he starts practicing every day and has no side-effects, we’ll know something good’s happened.”

And the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa took note of Babcock's take on Samuelsson and/or Franzen returning:

The Red Wings are likely to receive some veteran additions to the roster against the Blackhawks. Mikael Samuelsson and Franzen are both cleared to play.

"So we'll decide in the morning when we get here on the lineup and all that," Babcock said. "I don't even know where we are, roster-wise and some of those things, right there. I'll talk with Kenny this afternoon and we'll go from there."

Samuelsson, who was expected to be a big contributor on the third line, or higher, as well as the power play, seemed raring to go, after a groin injury kept him out of the lineup in January and February. On the eve of his expected return, he took a shot off his hand and broke a finger, which took care of almost all of March.

"It's a coach's decision," Samuelsson said after a brisk practice. "I can go. I felt like I could play tomorrow. It's been up and down this year. But I try not to think about that now. I'm just excited to be where I'm at now."

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About The Malik Report

The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.