Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings-Capitals game-day updates: Franzen, Helm out; Lidstrom making strides toward return

New headline: if you missed it, Darren Helm will be out for 4 to 6 weeks with a second-degree MCL sprain.

Updated 8x at 6:33 PM: As the Detroit Red Wings prepare to face off against the Washington Capitals this evening (7:30 PM EDT, FSD/CSN Washington/97.1 FM),the Wings sent a pretty strong indication that either Johan Franzen nor Darren Helm will play for a good chunk of time shuffling Andrej Nestrasil from the Walleye to the Griffins, giving the Griffins some insurance given that they’re embarking on a 4-game road trip to Texas and Oklahoma today…

But there’s good news from the morning skate, which will be dissected (sort of) shortly via a long series of Twitter updates from the Wings’ beat writers. Long story short, Johan Franzen (back) won’t play tonight and may miss another game or two with his back spasms, and Darren Helm (sprained knee? Charley horse?) and Joey MacDonald’s (shooting pains from back down to leg) respective statuses are to be determined after their MRI results come in, but Nicklas Lidstrom took part in the entire morning skate—and will try to skate in a full practice tomorrow—as noted by the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness...

Nicklas Lidstrom on ice. Doesn’t look to be struggling on ankle.
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Already the longest time he has been on ice with teammates since ankle injury 3 weeks ago.
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No Johan Franzen on ice. Kindl and Ericsson also skating.
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Joey MacDonald also missing on ice.
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If wings fans are looking for a good sign, Nicklas Lidstrom is still on ice.

The Free Press’s Helene St. James...

Lidstrom on for morning skate with Red Wings
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Don’t see Franzen or Helm
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Nyquist on line with Datsyuk and Bertuzzi
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Lidstrom not taking part in practice, but at least on the ice http://pic.twitter.com/iwLkGYyl
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Lines look like 44-13-14; 51-40-26; 20-8-11; 96-48-39 #redwings
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Lidstrom doing a few drills, this is most he’s done since bone bruise to ankle http://pic.twitter.com/uF2jg0IH
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Lidstrom said he feels much better, hopes to join in practice tomorrow, but no timetable for his return.
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Franzen (back) said he feels better, hopes to start skating by end of week

The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan...

Lidstrom kindl and ericsson all skating
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Lidstrom still considers homself day to day but said he felt better today
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Franzen says he is feeling improvement will try toskate this week

NHL.com’s Brian Hedger...

#Redwings filing onto the ice for morning skate, including the captain.
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#Redwings have seven D men on the ice for their skate. Lidstrom hasn’t left yet. Good sign?
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Good news for #Redwings is this might be longest Lidstrom has stayed on the ice. Bad news, he only looks like the sort of perfect human.
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No MacDonald, no Franzen for #Redwings nor Helm as expected. Abdelkader centering third line.
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Also, check that, #Redwings have nine D men practicing thus a.m., including Ericsson and Kindl.
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#Redwings lines: 51-40-26; 44-13-14; 20-8-11; 96-48-39 Doubt Lidstrom plays, but we’ll find out. That would obviously affect d pairs
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Lidstrom still out there for #Redwings.
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Lidstrom not close to his normal skating ability, but at least he’s still out on the ice. #Redwings
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Putting Nyquist on the second line with Datsyuk at center and Bertuzzi on the other side could be real interesting. #Redwings
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Lidstrom says he’s still day to day, encouraged by finishing skate, hopeful to return before playoffs. Had another x-ray Fri, no break seen.
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Nyquist said he’s feeling much more comfortable in the NHL and is ready to tackle top six minutes if granted. #Redwings
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Kronwall was informed by @CraigCustance that there is supposedly a “book” out on shutting down Ovi. “Really? Could you send it this way?”
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Babcock on Lidstrom: “It was nice to see him out there. He didn’t really look close but good to see ...”
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No update on Helm until later today. #Redwings waiting on MRI results from test run this a.m.

MLive’s Ansar Khan...

Wings’ Lidstrom on the ice for morning skate but Franzen is not skating. Helm, as expected, not on ice.
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Wings skating with these lines: 51-40-26, 14-13-44, 20-8-11, 96-48-39; 55-23, 27-18, 2-37, 52-4; 35-36
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Lidstrom still on the ice. This is longest he has skated since ankle injury on 2-25. Looks like 4 days’ rest helped.
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Lidstrom said x-rays friday showed no fracture. Still just bruise. Some swelling there but feels better. Hoping to practice tuesday.
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Babcock said Franzen still day to day (out tonight). Helm and macDonald going for tests today
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Franzen said he feels better. Hopes to return this week. No MRI or other tests needed for his back spasms.
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Helm had MRI and team is waiting for results

And the Red Wings’ official Twitter account:

Tonight’s #Wings-#Capitals ticket art features Niklas Kronwall. http://twitpic.com/8yhds0
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Great to see Nick Lidstrom back out there with his teammates for today’s morning skate at the Joe.
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Johan Franzen (back), Joey MacDonald (back) and Darren Helm (lower body) are not part of today’s skate. All are expected to be out tonight.
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Cleary: ‘We certainly have played well at home this season. There’s no better time for us to win one here than now.’
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WATCH: Ian White chats about having Lidstrom back and keeping am even keel. http://twitvid.com/R0WPV
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Nyquist on Ovechkin: ‘He is certainly a great player and I will be aware of him out there.’
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Nyquist is expected to be on a line with Pavel Datsyuk tonight. Pav obviously drawing a media crowd with @ovi8 in town.
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We’ll have better video in a bit, but Nick talks to reporters after today’s practice. twitvid.com/6LGIX
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Lidstrom says he’s improving, but it is going to come down to the trainers and the coaching staff on determining his return.
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Lidstrom: ‘I want to get into some games before the playoffs.’
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Lidstrom is hoping to skate in a full practice tomorrow. The AM skate is a shorter time on ice.
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According to Mike Babcock, Helm, Franzen and MacDonald are out tonight. Darren and Joey will be looked at today.
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Babcock: ‘We’re not rolling right now and we need wins. I don’t know if the opponent has anything to do with it.’
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Babcock: ‘There are no moral victories in the NHL and we need to play better.’
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Babcock was asked about the matchup with Washington. “We’re not rolling right now and we need wins. The opponent has nothing to do with it.”

Via RedWingsFeed, here’s Helene St. James’ quickie morning skate report:

A quick update from the Detroit Red Wings’ morning skate: Captain Nicklas Lidstrom was on the ice and doing the most work he’s done since suffering a bone bruise three weeks ago,

Lidstrom didn’t full-out practice, and won’t play tonight when the Wings take on the Washington Capitals at 7:30 (FSD), but it’s at least encouraging that he’s finally able to be on the ice. His right ankle—injured when he was hit by a puck Feb. 25 against Colorado—had been too swollen for him to fit in a boot as late as the middle of last week.

Johan Franzen (back) and Darren Helm (left leg) weren’t on the ice.

And here’s MLive’s Brendan Savage’s quick morning skate report:

Lidstrom was on the ice this morning and skated longer than he has since being sidelined Feb. 25.

Lidstrom reported that he felt better and said X-rays taken Friday revealed no fracture in his ankle but there is still some swelling.

He hopes to take part in a full practice Tuesday.

• Darren Helm, who suffered a lower body injury during Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss in San Jose, did not participate in the morning skate.

• Johan Franzen (back spasms) also did not skate and will not play tonight, according to coach Mike Babcock. But Franzen said he feels better, that no MRI or other tests are needed and he hopes to return later this week.

• Goaltender Joey MacDonald (back) and Helm will both undergo tests today in an attempt to determine the severity of their injuries.

In terms of news regarding tonight’s opponent, Comcast Sportsnet Washington’s Chuck Gormley includes a few notes which didn’t appear in the set-up...

Holtby watch: With goaltender Tomas Vokoun still bothered by what is believed to be a groin strain and Michal Neuvirth sporting a record of 11-12-4, will AHL callup Braden Holtby get the call tonight in goal? Holtby has started only one game for the Caps this season, a 5-3 loss to San Jose on Feb. 13. 

Roman entrance: Defenseman Jeff Schultz was a minus-2 and lost a board battle that resulted in a goal by Andrew Shaw Sunday night and that could earn him a seat in the press box in favor of veteran Roman Hamrlik, who played well in place of the suspended Mike Green in the Capitals’ previous three games.

Ovi watch: Alex Ovechkin had a highlight-reel goal Sunday night, skating through three Blackhawks to score his team-high 30th goal of the season. Ironically, the Caps’ star left wing has been asked to dump the puck into the offensive zone when he is outmanned at the blue line. It marks the seventh straight season Ovechkin has hit the 30-goal mark but he was a minus-2 for the game and is now a minus-9 for the season. 

Knuble’s late charge: Mike Knuble now has two goals in his last three games after going 35 in a row without one. Knuble, 39, saw nearly 15 minutes of ice time, his most since Feb. 1. Knuble finished a plus-2 for the Caps, raising his team-worst total to minus-13.

The Capitals website’s “Caps today” blog page sets up tonight’s game as follows, and reports that Washington will hold an optional morning skate:

Today’s Storyline: The Washington Capitals continue a season-long, five-game road trip tonight in Detroit in the second half of back-to-backs. Washington dropped a 5-2 decision last night to Chicago. The Capitals, 5-4-1 in their last 10 games, sit five points behind Florida for first place in the Southeast Division. Washington holds a two point lead over Winnipeg and Buffalo for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Detroit, 3-6-1 in its last 10 games, is coming off of a 3-2 overtime loss to San Jose on Saturday. The Red Wings currently sit in fifth place in the Western Conference.
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Top Five Caps Facts

Russian records – Tonight’s game features three of the top-17 Russian goal scorers in NHL history. Alex Ovechkin ranks eighth among Russian-born players with 331 goals while Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk ranks 10th with 238. Alexander Semin ranks 17th with 194 goals.

High octane – Tonight’s game showcases five of the top-33 goal scorers in the NHL since 2005-06, Alex Ovechkin’s rookie season. Ovechkin leads the league in goals (331) while Henrik Zetterberg ranks 15th (211) in that span. Pavel Datsyuk (185) ranks 24th and Alexander Semin (184) ranks 25th. Mike Knuble ranks tied for 33rd (172).

A familiar foe – Troy Brouwer has a three-game point streak against Detroit and has recorded eight points (two goals, six assists) in his last eight games against the Red Wings. In his career, Brouwer has collected 10 points (2g-8a) in 17 career games against Detroit.

Four score – Mike Green tied a career high with four points on Oct. 22 vs. Detroit. Green scored twice and added two assists in the Capitals 7-1 win over the Red Wings. Green has recorded seven points (three goals, four assists) in five career games vs. Detroit.

Offense from the backend – Defender Dmitry Orlov has notched one goal and five assists in his last eight games and ranks third in the league in points (18) among rookie blueliners.

And WashingtonCapitals.com’s Mike Vogel provides an alternate game preview if you’re interested, and the Washington Post’s Tarik El-Bashir reports that the team’s trip to Detroit took longer than expected due to the pea soup, I mean fog, we had this morning…

Expected to be a very optional skate today at Joe Louis for #Caps, who got into town early this morning due to fog.
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#Wings Babcock just told reporters Franzen (back) and Helm (lower body) are out tonight.
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Lidstrom (bruised ankle) staked but will not play, either. He’ll miss a 10th straight game.
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Also looks like Jimmy Howard will be in net for #Wings.
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Hamrlik, Ward, Halpern, Erskine and Holtby are only #Caps on ice at the moment.
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Tomas Vokoun (nagging groin injury) skated for a few minutes, but came off after stretching.

And the Washington Times’ Stephen Whyno took note of Wings news, too

#RedWings on ice for morning skate. Nicklas Lidstrom (ankle) is out there but doesn’t look ready to play.
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#Caps catch break in that #RedWings without Lidstrom, Franzen, Eaves, Helm, among other wounded.
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Jimmy Howard off first for Red Wings. Looks like he’ll start vs. #Caps. Also seems Nick Lidstrom still out, won’t play.
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Lidstrom still a ways away, calling himself day-to-day. Skating today was progress, but he’s not close to returning. #RedWings
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Helm, Franzen out for #RedWings tonight vs. #Caps. Howard starts in goal.

Update #0.5: Of note from FSD’s John Keating...

Incl 2 playoff wins, #RedWings are 12-4-1 vs. Caps at JLA last 16 gms. WASH won @home in Oct, 7-1 after DET had won 5 str. #crucialgameJLA
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#RedWings have 7 of 10 @home to finish the regular season. Currently-would not have home ice in 1st round. Home to Caps at 7 on FSD tonite.
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A warm, sunny sight. Lidstrom back on skates going thru skate at JLA. Still day-to-day. Kronwall:He was still the best player out there.
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#Wings’ Darren Helm and Joey MacDonald to have MRI’s today. Johan Franzen is day to day with back spasms. #whenitrainsitpours
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Wings’ coach Mike Babcock:“We’re a fragile group right now. Nobody is going to feel sorry for us.” Wings were passed in standings by Nash.
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Babcock:“We don’t talk a lot about Helm(MRI today) but he’s a very important part of this team.” Abdelkader to center.Wings-Caps@7 on FSD.

And the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff:

#redwings lines: 14-13-44; 96-48-39; 51-40-26; 11-8-20.
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#redwings Lidstrom (bone bruise on foot) skated for full morning skate and declared himself day to day.
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#redwings Babcock on Lidstrom: “It didn’t look like he was anywhere close, but at least he was out there, so that’s a good thing.”

Update #0.75: The Brandon Sun’s Rob Henderson reports that Kelly McCrimmon’s team now has a best defenseman’s award named after Brad McCrimmon;

• NHL.com’s Justin Goldman suggests that fantasy hockey players might want to dump Jimmy Howard:

3. Jimmy Howard: For the first time this season, there’s uncertainty surrounding Howard’s fantasy value. He has not been the same since returning from his broken finger, and the time he missed during that injury led to him missing another 12 days with a groin pull. He has lost his first two games back, allowing seven goals on 61 shots. Look for him to try and get back on track this week.

No comment regarding NHL.com’s Dave Lozo’s demotion of the Wings to the bottom, or near the bottom, of his “Super 16”:

14. Detroit (44-24-4) [last week] 10: Since Nicklas Lidstrom left the lineup with a bone bruise, the Wings are 3-5-1. It’s perhaps a scary glimpse into what life will be like when Lidstrom finally decides to call it a career.

• And What We Learned offers…sympathy?


Update #1: Here’s the Free Press’s Helene St. James’ full morning skate report:

Captain Nicklas Lidstrom was on the ice and doing the most work he’s done since suffering a bone bruise three weeks ago. Lidstrom didn’t full-out practice, and won’t play tonight when the Wings take on the Washington Capitals at 7:30 (FSD), but it’s at least encouraging that he’s finally able to be on the ice. His right ankle - injured when he was hit by a puck Feb. 25 against Colorado—had been too swollen for him to fit in a boot as late as the middle of last week.

“That’s encouraging, compared to how it was on Wednesday morning in L.A., when I had my skate on and I couldn’t stand on my foot. So that’s an improvement for sure, where I was able to skate out there and even pivot and do some turns.”

Lidstrom said he had another X-ray on Friday, which still showed no fracture. “It’s still just bone bruise that’s taking some time to heal.”

There’s still no timetable for his return, but he hopes to engage in practice Tuesday, and plans on traveling with the Wings to New York, where they play Wednesday, so he can continue his on-ice work.

In other injury updates, Johan Franzen, who missed Saturday’s game with back spasms, said he’s doing better and he hopes to return to practices later this week. He sounded confident he’ll be back for the playoffs.

Darren Helm, who injured his left leg Saturday, had an MRI done, but results haven’t come in yet.

St. James posted a video of Lidstrom speaking to the press as well:

Here’s the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness’s morning skate report…

Nicklas Lidstrom took part in his first full practice since suffering a deep ankle bone bruise three weeks ago.

“It felt better than a few days ago in L.A.,” Lidstrom said after the skate. “I was able to skate a little bit longer. I’m still day-to-day. We’ll see how it feels and how it reacts tomorrow. I still look at it being day-to-day,” Lidstrom added. “Hopefully it continues to get better every day. I’m hoping (this skate) will help it and it’s not going to get worse from skating. I’m just hoping it’s going to get better day-by-day.”

Lidstrom left the Wings’ three-game road trip early to just rest his ankle at home.

“It’s hard (to watch),” Lidstrom said. “You want to be there. It’s hard even sitting in the press box watching. You want to be on the bench, be there to support your team and just be there for your teammates.”

Lidstrom had another x-ray done on Friday and it showed no other damage other than a bruise. He also said the swelling had gone done a bit.

“That’s encouraging, especially compared to how it was that morning in L.A. when I couldn’t really stand when I had my skate on,” Lidstrom said. “That’s an improvement for sure. I was able to stand out there, pivot and do some turns. It’s been slowly getting better,” Lidstrom added. “The big test is when you put your skate on and you’re skating. That’s when the most pressure’s on it and you can really test it out. I can walk around and do all that. The most pain is from tying the skate, putting the pressure on where it’s hurting and trying to skate and trying to push off with your toes when you’re trying to skate. That’s what’s been bothering me.”

And amongst the quips from the Capitals’ morning skate, per Whyno...

Hunter not naming starting goalie for tonight. Certainly won’t be Vokoun, who didn’t skate long. Holtby or Neuvirth. #Caps

CSN Washington’s Chuck Gormley....

G Jimmy Howard first off the ice for Red Wings
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Dale Hunter seems to be leaning toward Michal Neuvirth. Says you have to be careful making that decision
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Careful about dec to start rookie G

Again, El-Bashir...

Hamrlik, Ward, Halpern, Erskine and Holtby are only #Caps on ice at the moment.
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Tomas Vokoun (nagging groin injury) skated for a few minutes, but came off after stretching.
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Here’s what visiting teams see upon entering their dressing room at Joe Louis Arena. http://lockerz.com/s/193954665

And Hedger:

Dale Hunter was bleeding from below the left ear talking to us. Would’ve asked why, but too far away and, he’s Dale Hunter for God’s sake.
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Hunter didn’t reveal starting goalie, but Vokoun is out. Day to Day
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Vokoun battling a nagging groin injury, being cautious about it.

Update #1.5: From St. James:

Russian Pavel Datsyuk on playing with Gustav Nyquist, who’s Swedish: “Same language, like me, now.” #RedWings

I think that CBS Detroit’s mocking us with its Darren Helm wallpaper, too…

Update #2: here are Lidstrom’s morning skate comments from the Red Wings’ website…

• Via RedWingsFeed, here’s Ted Kulfan’s morning skte report:

“It felt better,” said Lidstrom, who added the swelling had gone down and X-rays taken Friday still showed nothing more than a bruise. “I’m still calling it day-to-day (for a return to games) and hoping it gets better every day. It’s hard when you’re sitting in the press box. You want to be on the bench with the team.”
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“It was good but it didn’t look he was anywhere close (to returning),” Babcock said. “Obviously, we’d like to get him back. We’d like to get everyone back.”

Forward Johan Franzen (back spasms) might be close to returning. Franzen will miss his second consecutive game Monday, but he expressed optimism he’d be able to skate later this week.

“Definitely improvement,” said Franzen of his condition; he had left Friday’s practice early.

Forward Darren Helm (left knee) and goalie Joey MacDonald (back) both had tests Monday morning and the Wings are waiting for results. Forward Gustav Nyquist was recalled from Grand Rapids and will be skating on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi against the Capitals.

“He’s guy with some decent skills, it’ll be fun to play with him,” said Nyquist of the opportunity to skate on Datsyuk’s line.

The Wings are winless in four games (0-3-1) and are 3-7-2 over their last 12. They’ve fallen eight points behind division-leading St. Louis, and Nashville has tied the Wings in total points (92) but has overtaken them in the standings with more regulation victories (38-37).

“We need wins,” Babcock said. “We’re probably feeling a little fragile right now.”

Update #3: Here are Capitals updates, starting with this from WashingtonCapitals.com’s Mike Vogel...

No firm word on starting goaltender for #Caps tonight. Possible that Halpern steps in for Ward. Caps won only 35 pct of draws in CHI yday.
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Nicklas Backstrom skated at Kettler today, the seventh straight day in which the #Caps’ pivot has been on the ice.

In plain English, former Red Wings try-out Joel Ward won’t play tonight because Jeff Halpern is playing instead, and Nicklas Backstrom is skating on his own as he recovers from a concussion…

From CSN Washington’s Gormley...

Looks like Jeff Halpern could replace Joel Ward and Roman Hamrlik could replace Jeff Schultz in the Capitals’ lineup tonight in Detroit.
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Tomas Vokoun says he is dealing with the first groin injury of his career and tried to come back earlier than he should have.

From the Washington Post’s El-Bashir...

As @VogsCaps mentioned, it indeed sounds like Jeff Halpern will be making his return to the lineup. He was scratched the past 5 games.
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Vokoun on groin injury: “It wasn’t good enough, but it’s better. I came back a little too early before.”
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More Vokoun: “We just want to make sure I don’t make it worse. You’re always worried about it.”

Chuck Gormley took note of Mike Babcock’s comments about the Capitals...

Detroit coach Mike Babcock doesn’t mince words when talking about his team and with the Red Wings struggling through a stretch in which they’ve lost four in a row and six of their last seven, he’s got more to worry about than the Capitals.

“We’re a team that needs to find a way to win some games and we’re probably a little fragile right now,” Babcock said Monday morning after announcing that defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom (ankle), right wing Johan Franzen (back spasms) and center Darren Helm (lower body) would miss tonight’s game at Joe Louis Arena.

As for the struggling Capitals, who have lost two in a row after a four-game win streak, Babcock was asked by CSNwashington.com if he’s surprised to see Alex Ovechkin and Company scratching to get into the playoffs as the eighth seed in the East.

“The first thing is, I’ve got enough issues right here,” Babcock said. “What I’ve found over the years is people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones or even start thinking about anyone else. The other thing is, I don’t play in the East, so I get to pass on this question totally. How’s that?”

Fair enough. The Caps blew away the Red Wings 7-1 when they last met back on Oct. 22 at the Verizon Center, but have not won in Detroit since 2003 when Rastislav Stana earned his only NHL win.

And shifting focus back to the Wings, here’s Ansar Khan’s official morning skate report, focusing on Lidstrom’s 30 minutes’ worth of skating with the Wings this morning:

“That’s encouraging, especially compared to how it was that morning in L.A. (Wednesday), when I couldn’t really stand when I had my skate on,’’ Lidstrom said. “That’s an improvement for sure. I was able to stand out there, pivot and do some turns. It’s been slowly getting better. The big test is when you put your skate on and you’re skating. That’s when the most pressure’s on it and you can really test it out.’‘
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“It’s still just a bone bruise that’s been taking time to heal,’’ he said. “I can walk around and do all that. The most pain is from tying the skate, putting the pressure on where it’s hurting and trying to skate and trying to push off with your toes. That’s what’s been bothering me.’‘
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“I need to feel strong in one practice and hopefully that’ll carry over to the next day,’’ Lidstrom said. “As far as being able to play again, that’s going to be up to the coaching staff and trainers.’‘
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He is helping in other ways.

“You’re there after practices talking, and the coaching staff has asked me what I think we need to improve on,’’ Lidstrom said. “But when you’re not there and you’re not in the room, it’s harder to give that kind of input.’‘

Lidstrom was injured on Feb. 25, hit by a puck that was rimmed along the boards. Teammates were encouraged to see him on the ice for an extended period.

“I think he’s right around the corner,’’ Ian White said. “Hopefully this week some time. It looks like he’s skating fine, so he must be doing good. When he’s not in the lineup, you can’t really fill his shoes. It will be a big, big boost for the whole club when he’s ready to go.’‘

Said Niklas Kronwall: “Just seeing him on the ice we know he’s getting closer. Until then, we all have to dig in and take care of business.’‘

Khan notes that Lidstrom hopes to accompany the team to New York, which means that he may return as soon as Friday, knock on wood…

• Here’s Babcock’s presser from the Red Wings’ website:

• Via RedWIngsFeed, here’s DetroitRedWIngs.com’s Bill Roose’s Lidstrom report:

While Lidstrom won’t play tonight, he is getting closer to returning, which is encouraging, he said, and something the Wings desperately need right now.

“It’s been slowly getting better,” said Lidstrom, who was sent home from the Wings’ California road trip last Thursday. “The big test is when you put your skate on and you’re skating. That’s when the most pressure’s on it and you can really test it out. I can walk around and do all that. The most pain is from tying the skate, putting the pressure on where it’s hurting and trying to skate and trying to push off with your toes when you’re trying to skate. That’s what’s been bothering me.”

Lidstrom returned to Detroit four days ahead of the team after he experienced a setback in Anaheim last Wednesday. He had a third X-ray of the right ankle taken last Friday, but just as the previous two tests showed, there is no structural damage to the bone.

“It felt better than a few days ago in L.A. I was able to skate a little bit longer. We’ll see how it feels and how it reacts tomorrow,” he said. “I still look at it being day-to-day. Hopefully it continues to get better every day. I’m hoping (this skate) will help it and it’s not going to get worse from skating.”

Lidstrom plans to skate again Tuesday and if all goes well will accompany the team to New York for Wednesday’s game against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, where he will participate in the morning skate. If the pain continues to subside, a return prior to the end of the regular-season would be an ideal scenario, he said.

“I want to get some games in before the playoffs start,” Lidstrom said. “It’s just a matter of getting better everyday. I need to feel strong in one practice and hopefully that’ll carry over to the next day. That’s how you want it to improve. As far as being able to play again that’s going to be up to the coaching staff and trainers.”

Since late February, 12 players have missed games due to injury or illness. And while Wings coach Mike Babcock was delighted to see Lidstrom back on the ice, he would like to see his team get healthier sooner than later.

“It didn’t look like he was anywhere close, but at least he was out there, so that’s a good thing,” Babcock said. “It’s nice and obviously we’d like to get him back. We’d like to get everyone back.”

• And I can only shake my head at this quip from 97.1 the Ticket’s Mike Stone:

3. A few days ago I secretly started to hope that the Chicago Black Hawks would catch fire and pass the Red Wings for the fifth spot in the Western Conference. Why? Well I would much rather face either Dallas or Phoenix than go up against the Nashville Predators. But now that we find that Alexander Radulov has been cleared to join the Predators. If you don’t remember Radulov, let me fill you in. He is an electric 25 year old right wing who can score. He played for Nashville for two seasons before returning to his native Russia after the 2008 season. In 2008 he tallied 26 goals and had 2 goals and 4 assists against the Wings in their opening round playoff series. Nashville is formidable enough as it is, but when you add Radulov to the roster they are downright scary.

Update #3.5: Here’s the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff’s Lidstrom and/or morning skate report...

While the injury list continues to grow for the Detroit Red Wings, as they prepared for Monday’s game at Joe Louis Arena against the Washington Capitals, there was a welcome sight. Captain Nicklas Lidstrom, out the past nine games with a deep bone bruise in his ankle, took the ice for the entire pre-game skate.

Though he won’t play Monday, Lidstrom was growing optimistic that there was light at the end of the tunnel. “It felt better than a few days ago in L.A.,” Lidstrom said. “I was able to skate a little bit longer. I’m still day-to-day. We’ll see how it feels and how it reacts tomorrow. Hopefully it continues to get better every day. I’m hoping (this skate) will help it, and it’s not going to get worse from skating.”

This has been the longest injury absence of Lidstrom’s two-decade National Hockey League career, and he admitted that his patience is wearing thin. “You want to be in there,” Lidstrom said. “It’s hard even sitting in the press box watching. You want to be on the bench, be there to support your team, and just be there for your teammates.”

As for the rest of Detroit’s walking wounded,  goaltender Joey MacDonald (back), defencemen Jakub Kindl (upper-body) and Jonathan Ericsson (wrist) and forwards Johan Franzen (back), Darren Helm (lower-body) and Patrick Eaves (concussion) remain sidelined.

“Mac and Helmer will be looked at today,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Mule (Franzen) continues to be day-to-day with back spasms. We’ll know more about Mac and Helmer probably by the end of today.” Franzen looks to be the closest to getting back into action. “Soon,” Franzen said, “In the next days, hopefully.”

Babcock intends to work rookie Gustav Nyquist on left wing with Detroit’s top unit of centre Pavel Datsyuk and right-winger Todd Bertuzzi. “He’s done a real good job for us in the minors,” Babcock said. “We know it’s a totally different league, but he’s got skill and he’s got a mind. We like that. We’ll see what happens.”

Nyquist was excited about the chance to play alongside such high-end talent as Datsyuk. “Yeah, he’s got decent skills, I guess,” Nyquist joked. “It’ll be a lot of fun playing with him.”

• On the Capitals’ side of things, the Washington Times’ Stephen Whyno filed a morning skate report...

[Tomas Vokoun’s groin injury comes at what] is close to the worst possible timing for the Caps, who have 10 games left in their attempt to make the playoffs. With back-to-back games Sunday and Monday at Detroit and Chicago, coach Dale Hunter’s in a tough spot against the Red Wings choosing between Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby. Holtby has just one NHL start this season and got lit up by the San Jose Sharks on Feb. 13. Asked if he’d consider Holtby at Detroit, Hunter said: “It’s one of those things, it’s out there, but you’ve got to be careful this time of year.”

Vokoun is being careful, especially considering this has been bothering him for a few weeks. He has played three games since it flared up, but it’s not looking like more game action is coming soon.

“I just want to make sure I don’t take one step forward and three back next time,” he said.

The 35-year-old has never had a groin problem before, making this an even more frustrating process.

“I don’t have any experience with that. I never had it. It’s unfortunate. You can’t control that stuff,” Vokoun said. “We are working on it and as soon as I feel it’s good enough to play.”

• Here’s Comcast Sportsnet Washington’s Chuck Gormley’s morning skate report…

Dale Hunter has proven two things since becoming head coach of the Capitals on Nov. 28. If his team is not broken, he won’t fix it. But if it is, he will tinker until he gets what he wants.

Hunter has been doing a lot of tinkering lately and tonight in Detroit it will continue when veterans Jeff Halpern and Roman Hamrlik are expected to be dusted off and placed back into the lineup against the Red Wings.

Halpern has been a healthy scratch the past five games and could replace Joel Ward in the lineup. Hamrlik has sat out nine of the Caps’ last 12 games and could replace Jeff Schultz, who was a minus-2 in the Caps’ 5-2 loss in Chicago Sunday night.
...
With Vokoun ailing, the Caps have recalled Braden Holtby from the Hershey Bears. Holtby served as a backup to Michal Neuvirth Sunday night in Chicago and was the only goalie who skated at the team’s morning skate on Monday. Holtby has played in only one game for the Capitals, a 5-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Feb. 13 when he was a surprise starter over Neuvirth, who has won two of his last three starts but is struggling through an 11-12-4 season.

Asked if he would consider starting Holtby against the Red Wings Hunter said, “It’s out there, but I have to be careful this time of year.”

• And the Washington Post’s El-Bashir isn’t sure which goalie will start for Washington given the tea leaves he attempted to read during the Caps’ optional morning skate:

With Vokoun out, that means tonight’s starter will be either Neuvirth, Sunday night’s goalie in Chicago, or Braden Holtby, who was recalled from the minors Saturday. Neuvirth came to the arena this morning but did not skate; Holtby practiced with goalie coach Olie Kolzig.

Update #4: MLive’s Ansar Khan spoke to Johan Franzen, who did not skate this morning, about his back spasms:

Franzen didn’t skate today, but said he feels better and hopes to return this week. He said he doesn’t need to have an MRI, “not as long things are going in the right direction.”

“I’ll try to skate, but I don’t have (a) clue on how it’s going to feel with skating,’’ Franzen said.

Meanwhile, the team is waiting for MRI results on center Darren Helm (left knee/leg) and goaltender Joey MacDonald (back). Rookie Gustav Nyquist practiced today on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi, where he likely will start tonight’s game against Washington.

“He’s done a real good job for us in the minors,’’ coach Mike Babcock said. “We know it’s a totally different league. He’s got skill and he’s got a mind. We like that. We’ll see what happens. Obviously, we haven’t generated near enough offense. We’re trying to be better. We lost Helmer the last game, so that changes things a little bit. We’re just trying to figure it out.’‘

Update #4.5: Caps video time. Here’s Capitals goalie Braden Holtby, who has no idea whether he’s starting, speaking to the media:

Update #5: Here is the Capitals’ website’s game preview:

 

Regarding the Wings, here’s more from St. James:

Pavel Datsyuk was in fine form this morning, as he fielded questions on playing at home, playing with Gustav Nyquist, and facing Washington Capitals superstar and fellow Russian Alex Ovechkin. The Wings host the Capitals at 7:30 tonight (FSD) at Joe Louis Arena in a game that could be important to their pysche.

“The bottom line is, when you come off a road trip, and you’re rolling right along, and you might not have energy, that might be one thing,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We’re a team that needs to find a way to win some games, and my guess is we’re probably a little fragile right now. So I don’t know if the opponent has much to do with anything, to tell the truth. For us, right now, to tell you the truth ... we need to feel good about ourselves.”

With Nicklas Lidstrom and Johan Franzen, two keys to the offense, among the injured, the Wings are looking for ways to boost their output. Babcock gave Nyquist the chance to practice with Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi during the morning skate, not a bad job for a 22-year-old with Nyquist’s skills.

Datsyuk had this to say about his new wingman: “He’s young and have lots of skill and fresh legs.”

Asked whether it should be an especially easy fit to adjust to play with a Swede, given how many he has as teammates, Datsyuk smiled. “Same language, like me, now.”

Asked whether he enjoys playing against Ovechkin, Datsyuk didn’t miss a beat, answering, “Against him? Not really.”

As for the notion Ovechkin, who has, by his standards, a sub-par 30 goals and 54 points in 68 games, Datsyuk doesn’t believe No. 8 is less than great. “He really good, dominate, always dangerous. He shoot from anywhere, and he can score from anywhere. If he not score 50 goals, people say, ‘Oh, he not good anymore.’ I think he still really good.”

• And NHL.com’s Brian Hedger offers a “best guess” regarding the Wings’ and Capitals’ respective lineups:

The good news for both Detroit and Washington is that Russian stars and friends Pavel Datsyuk and Alex Ovechkin are healthy enough to face each other again—which usually is a lot of fun to watch for fans and fellow teammates alike.

Detroit fell to fifth in the Western Conference because of tie-breakers after Nashville beat Anaheim on Sunday, while the Caps are clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the East, just two points ahead of ninth-place Winnipeg and 10th-place Buffalo.

Here’s a look at how the Capitals and Red Wings might line up Monday:

CAPITALS
Alex Ovechkin - Brooks Laich - Marcus Johansson
Jason Chimera - Mathieu Perreault - Alexander Semin
Matt Hendricks - Jay Beagle - Troy Brouwer
Mike Knuble - Keith Aucoin - Jeff Halpern

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Dmitri Orlov - Dennis Wideman
Roman Hamrlik - Mike Green

Michal Neuvirth could get the start in goal, with Braden Holtby available as the backup.

RED WINGS
Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Todd Bertuzzi - Pavel Datsyuk - Gustav Nyquist
Drew Miller - Justin Abdelkader - Danny Cleary
Tomas Holmstrom - Cory Emmerton - Jan Mursak

Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Kyle Quincey - Ian White
Brendan Smith - Doug Janik

Jimmy Howard will start in goal, with Jordan Pearce the backup.

Update #5.5: In case you didn’t already know it, Hockey’s Future’s Andrew Sykes wants you to know that the Blackhawks are only 4 points behind the Wings and Predators;

• I think that ESPN’s Scott Burnside offers a charitable assessment of the Wings’ status in the first crop of power rankings to hit the wires today, too:

7. Detroit [record] 44-24-4 [down] 2 Last Week: 5: The Wings’ road woes continue as they were beaten in San Jose in OT Saturday. They are 16-20-2 away from Joe Louis Arena and 1-5-1 in their past seven overall. The continued absence of Nicklas Lidstrom, along with a host of other injuries, has been problematic for the once-dominant Wings—although Pavel Datsyuk returned to the lineup over the weekend.

Update #5.75: Here’s one more addendum to St. James’ morning skate report:

In other injury updates, forward Johan Franzen, who missed Saturday’s game with back spasms, said he’s doing better and hopes to return to practice later this week.

“Soon, maybe in the next few days,” he said.

A five-hour flight, as the Wings had Sunday, to get home from San Jose, Calif., isn’t ideal for a tall guy with a bad back, but Franzen said, “I tried to get up and move as much as possible on the flight, so it feels better.”

He sounded confident he’ll be back for the playoffs.

Update #5.85: If you’re interested, the Washington Times’ Stephen Whyno ponders whether Braden Holtby or Michal Neuvirth will start tonight.

Update #5.9: Of completely unrelated note, from the Holland Sentinel:

The Grand Rapids Griffins will host two game nights to benefit the Zeeland Public Schools Education Foundation.

The qualifying tickets, for games on March 31 and April 13, are available online with the coupon code “ZEELAND.” The buyer will receive a discount and the Zeeland Public Schools Education Foundation will receive a portion of the proceeds.

Tickets will be discounted to the following levels: upper level preferred seating, $14; lower level faceoff seating, $16; and lower level center ice seating, $19.

The promotion is part of the Griffins welcome to “Community Nights with the Griffins.” In addition to the promotional tickets, March 31 will feature a Greg Amadio bobble giveaway to the first 2,000 fans; intermission entertainment by Russian Bar Trio; and an open skate after the game. On the night of April 13, there will also be $1 concession specials from 6-8 p.m.; a rally towel giveaway for the first 2,500 fans; and another post-game open skate.

Update #6: Here’s Ken Kal’s game preview, which includes interviews with Niklas Kronwall and Gustav Nyquist:

Update #6.5: More Capitals stuff time. Here’s WashingtonCapitals.com’s Mike Vogel’s game-day preview...

Caps center Jeff Halpern ranks fourth in the NHL with a 58.3% success rate from the face-off circle. Halpern has been a healthy scratch for the Capitals in each of their last five games and a total of six times this season, and the Caps have missed his face-off prowess in those contests.

In the six games in which Halpern has not played this season (he was also a healthy scratch for the Nov. 1 game vs. Anaheim), the Capitals are a 45.1% team on the dot. Yesterday in Chicago, the Caps won just 19 of 55 draws for an anemic success rate of 34.5%. Needing a couple of goals to rebound from a 4-2 deficit, the Caps managed to win four of 18 (22.2%) third-period face-offs on Sunday against the Blackhawks.

Perhaps with some of those shortcomings in mind, the Caps will re-install Halpern into the lineup tonight against the Red Wings in Detroit. It looks as though right wing Joel Ward will draw the healthy scratch designation for Washington in Monday’s game against the Wings. Ward has missed just one game thus far this season; that was a Nov. 21 home ice match-up against the Phoenix Coyotes in which he was scratched for oversleeping and missing a team meeting.

It’s possible there will be some other lineup shuffling on the Washington blueline tonight in Detroit, too. The Caps struggled in their own end throughout the Chicago game on Sunday, and Caps coach Dale Hunter has eight blueliners on the roster from which to choose.

Michal Neuvirth manned the twine for the Caps in Chicago yesterday. Tomas Vokoun is still bothered by a lower body injury. It’s possible that Washington would tab 22-year-old Braden Holtby as its netminder for tonight’s game. Holtby has made one start for the Caps this season, a 5-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks at Verizon Center on Feb. 13.

Washington badly needs some points from this game tonight in the Motor City. The Caps lead all Eastern Conference clubs in regulation road losses, which means they lead the conference in road games in which they end up empty-handed. Since they earned a 4-0 win over the Florida Panthers at Verizon Center on Feb. 7, the Caps have endured three three-game losing streaks and would have a fourth if they don’t win in Detroit. The playoff chase is too tight to be going multiple games without bringing in standings points.

Regardless of who is in goal or who is in the lineup, the Caps need to be ready to play from the opening puck drop. They’ve been outscored 5-1 in the first period of the first three games on their current five-game road swing, and they’ve been outscored by a combined total of 19-9 in the first period of their last 18 games. Washington has surrendered at least one first-period goal in 12 of its last 18 games.

• And Tarik El-Bashir offers a quote-inclusive game-day update:

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Caps did not host a full morning skate today at Joe Louis Arena. In fact, only one player who suited up in Chicago went onto the ice. Coach Dale Hunter, however, met with reporters for a few minutes. Here’s what he had to say:

*Hunter wouldn’t divulge his starting goaltender. But we know it won’t be Tomas Vokoun, who is hurt.

Prospect Braden Holtby wasn’t giving it up, either. “I’m glad to be up here and if called upon I’ll be ready,” he said. Asked whether he would consider starting Holtby, Hunter said: “It’s one of those things that’s out there, but you have to be careful this time of year.”

In Holtby’s only NHL start this season, the 22-year-old made 30 saves in a 5-3 loss to San Jose on Feb. 13.

*Hunter was also mum on whether he planned to tweak his lineup in the aftermath of Sunday’s 5-2 loss in Chicago. It is believed, however, that center Jeff Halpern, a healthy scratch the past five games, could return. Makes sense, given that he’s the team’s best player in the faceoff circle and the Caps won a mere 35 percent of their draws against the Blackhawks.

[edit/update: Ditto for the Washington Times’ Stephen Whyno:

Following Friday night’s loss at the Winnipeg Jets, Dale Hunter broke out a new tie for Sunday’s game at the Chicago Blackhawks. That humbling loss might mean another tie gets a turn in the rotation, but much more importantly it means a change to the lineup.

Jeff Halpern gets back in for Monday night’s matchup at the Detroit Red Wings, he confirmed earlier in the day. It was not immediately clear whom Halpern will be replacing. Joel Ward played 11:57 Sunday, but not the lowest ice time on the team. That belonged to Matt Hendricks at 11:14, though Troy Brouwer saw only 12:16 in his Chicago homecoming.

Halpern has been a healthy scratch for five straight games, with Hunter giving no public explanation for what the 35-year-old forward did wrong. He’s ranked fourth in the NHL in faceoffs (58.3 percent), but in his three most recent games was at 40 percent, 40 percent and 33.3 percent.

On defense, expect to see Roman Hamrlik back in the lineup … but who comes out remains to be seen. Jeff Schultz did not have his best game Sunday at the Blackhawks and could be the odd man out.

“That’s a game-time decision,” Hunter said about whether Hamrlik would be back in.

/edit/update]

Update #6.75: I guess we should call Art Regner’s game-day article something of a “potpourri” as it covers everything, including the following:

Detroit has lost four games in a row—all on the road, including a week-long California trip that saw them earn one point.  Usually when a team returns from a long trip, conventional wisdom is that they might be sluggish their first game back home.

Can’t happen, said Babcock.

“When you come off a road trip and you&#

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Comments

MoreShoot's avatar

Nyquist on line with Datsyuk and Bertuzzi


smile

Posted by MoreShoot on 03/19/12 at 02:06 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

Nyquist on line with Datsyuk and Bertuzzi

Me likey.

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 03/19/12 at 02:24 PM ET

Chet's avatar

let’s hope all this rest means they can round into shape as the playoffs start.

Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 03/19/12 at 04:10 PM ET

Avatar

Glad to see that Nyquist will get his chance to play with Dats.  Like TPH, Dats makes everybody on the ice better.

Posted by BobaFett from Las Vegas on 03/19/12 at 06:23 PM ET

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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.