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Johan Franzen: “We want to keep winning.”

DETROIT >> Quick update from the Wings’ morning skate prior to hosting the Carolina Hurricanes tonight at Joe Louis Arena in their final regular season home game.

Coach Mike Babcock will keep with the same lineup he’s had the last two games, sitting Joakim Andersson and Todd Bertuzzi.

“We have to get better as a team,” Babcock said after the skate. “It’s so important to get better as a team. Every year we have a system review as soon as we get in, in other words we look at the details in our game so we’re ready going in.

“We play four lines,” Babcock continued. “We roll you out the door. We don’t know who’s first or who’s fourth until the game’s over because whoever plays good gets to play and we’re going to do the same thing tonight. We have to tighten up details.”

Jimmy Howard will start.

The Wings host a Carolina team that has just 79 points on the year.

“There’s not really going to be any change,” Riley Sheahan said. “Obviously we’re comfortable with the spot we’re in, but we’ve still got to play and we’ve still got to stay focused and keep winning. We’re not going to change anything and we’re going to keep going in with the same attitude.”

If the season ended prior to tonight’s game, the Wings would face Boston in the opening round. If they’re able to climb into that first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference they would open with Pittsburgh.

“We just want to be playing well,” Justin Abdelkader said. “Any team that gets in they just want to be playing well. We’re not worried about we’re going to play. Everything will sort itself out.”

Detroit went 3-0-1 against the Bruins this year and ended the year 1-1-1 against the Penguins.

“We want to keep winning,” Johan Franzen said. “We want to win these last two games and maybe climb up a spot. So, that’s our focus right now.

“I think it’s more we want to keep the winning going and come into the playoffs with a good feeling,” Franzen continued when asked if it mattered who they played in the first round. “Even if you say a loss like that doesn’t matter, it’s still a loss and we all want to win all the time. You feel worse after you lose than after a win, so we want to keep building our confidence and keep playing good.”

Detroit ends the regular season Sunday in St. Louis.

Columbus and Philadelphia also have 91 points and both have two games left in the regular season. Both teams hold the tiebreaker on the Wings, wins in regulation.

“You want to go on the playoffs on a roll and play good these last two games so we feel good about ourselves going in,” Abdelkader said.

Petr Mrazek is being recalled to backup Howard tonight.

Season appears to be over for Stephen Weiss

DETROIT >> Stephen Weiss’ season appears to be over.

“I don’t really know where he’s at,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said Friday after team’s morning skate at Joe Louis Arena. “I know he’s frustrated. He’s not on the horizon to come back. I was just in there talking to Steve, talking to our trainers, everybody is a little bit frustrated because we obviously thought he would be back by now, actually a long time ago. So they’re going through a check list. Everybody’s frustrated. He’s not getting better the way we had hope. We might send him back next week to see the doc who performed surgery, but in the meantime, he continues his rehab.”

Weiss had sports hernia surgery on Dec. 23.

“The doctor who performed the surgery and the doctor in St. Louis, who gave a second opinion, both think that it’s not an issue,” Holland said. “Part of heeling is what they call breaking down scar tissue and is it the scar issue, is it some other issue? At this stage of the game I’m not expecting him back this year. I think that’s the way we have to go forward. I mean he’s not even practicing. So I really don’t know what to tell you.”

Weiss last played on Dec. 10.

Weiss was expected to return to the lineup right after the Olympic break.

“We’re a month in and he’s nowhere in sight, so when you’re talking about healing you’re really never 100 percent sure,” Holland said.

Weiss said last week he was a day away from returning when he suffered another setback.

“It’s been a nightmare,” Weiss said at the time. “I keep pushing and trying to make myself available because in the end if we get in (the playoffs) we’re going to need bodies to be available.

“I had to kind of go backwards there for a bit which was real tough to take,” Weiss continued. “For whatever reason it’s been a tough year for me trying to get healthy.”

Weiss, who signed a five-deal deal on the first day of free agency at $4.9 million a season, has just two goals and two assists in 26 games this season with Detroit.

Wings expect Alfredsson to play Friday; Datsyuk will skate with Helm and Abdelkader

DETROIT >> Quick update from the Wings’ morning skate at Joe Louis Arena prior to their game against the Buffalo Sabres.

Daniel Alfredsson (back) took part in it after not skating since last Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Wings coach Mike Babcock said Alfredsson will be reassessed when he returns later this afternoon.

Wings general manager Ken Holland said he thinks Alfredsson will play.

Babcock said he didn’t know who would be the healthy scratches if Alfredsson can go, but from how the morning skate looked it would be Todd Bertuzzi and Joakim Andersson.

Pavel Datsyuk confirmed he will play tonight against the Sabres, his first game back after missing the last 16 resting inflammation in his left knee.

He’ll center a line with Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader.

Legwand a minus-8 since joining Wings; dropped to third line

DETROIT >> Wings coach Mike Babcock talked about needing more from his veterans after Thursday night’s loss to the Montreal Canadiens.

One of those players he was calling out is David Legwand.

“So, so,” Legwand said Friday after practice at Joe Louis Arena when asked to assess his performance since joining the Wings. “There is room to improve and be better in certain areas in the game.”

Legwand was dropped from the team’s top line in the second period Thursday to the third line, which is where he’ll begin the game Saturday night in Toronto

Legwand was also a minus-3 in the loss.

Over the last three games, Legwand has been a combined minus-6, which makes him a minus-8 with the Wings.

“We didn’t play very good so we changed things during the game,” Babcock said. “We’re just staying with what we finished with.”

Legwand will skate alongside Daniel Alfredsson and Joakim Andersson.

“You have to go out there and do what we can do to help the team out in whatever way possible,” Legwand said.

He played the fewest minutes (12:36) he’s played with the Wings since they traded for him at the deadline.

“It’s a different system and a different group of players,” said Legwand, who’ll be an unrestricted free agent this summer. “It’s getting used to a few different things and things I have to adjust to, but you have to be a professional about it and do it the right way. It’s crunch time, there are nine games left and every point matters.”

In 12 games this season with the Wings, Legwand has two goals and five assists.

“I think he’s been good, I didn’t think he was great (Thursday) but he was in a club with some other veteran guys that weren’t very good either so you know we weren’t good enough any way you look at it,” Babcock said.

Babcock’s top line is now Johan Franzen, Darren Helm and Gustav Nyquist, while the Kid Line remains intact of Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco.

“(The veterans) weren’t good,” Babcock said. “You’ve just got to play better, that’s all there is to it.”

With nine games left in the regular season the Wings still control their own destiny.

“Your season pretty much boils down to nine games,” Legwand said. “We control our own destiny pretty much and it starts (Saturday) night with beating Toronto and continuing Sunday (against Tampa Bay). We can get two big wins over the weekend and move on from there and put this other stuff behind us.”

Smith will be paired with Kronwall to start against Penguins; Ericsson has surgery to repair broken finger

DETROIT >> Quick update from Wings practice at Joe Louis Arena, which wound up being an optional skate.

Five of the injured players – Darren Helm (concussion), Jonas Gustavsson (groin), Joakim Andersson (broken foot), Mikael Samuelsson (shoulder) and Daniel Cleary (knee) – skated.

Jonathan Ericsson did have surgery to repair a broken finger suffered in Tuesday’s 3-2 win over Toronto. He’ll miss up to two weeks.

“We’ve had actually lucked out for a while on the blue line,” Brian Lashoff said of the injury bug that seems to be plaguing the room. “Not having E is going to be tough. It’s just kind of strange how it’s been happening all year and now these last couple of games guys are just going down. We just have to rally as a group back there and makeup for the minutes that E won’t be playing.”

Tuesday was the sixth consecutive game the Wings have lost a player to injury.

Gustavsson (groin) began the long list of injuries after leading the team to a win over the New Jersey Devils on March. 4. That was followed by Andersson (broken foot, March 9 against the New York Rangers), Tomas Jurco (broken rib, March 11 against Columbus), Todd Bertuzzi (lower-body injury, March 14 against Edmonton) and Justin Abdelkader (leg laceration, Sunday against Chicago.

Bertuzzi is the lone player to return off that list.

“There’s been times when we’ve had guys out, but not like this,” Helm said. “To have almost every one of our centers from the start of the year be out right now and seeing Johnny go out last night I don’t want to say it’s comical, but it’s unbelievable. You can’t really explain what’s happening with this team, but the guys that are in the lineup have been doing a good job so once everyone is back healthy we’ll make a good push.”

The team is also without Pavel Datsyuk (knee), Henrik Zetterberg (back) and Stephen Weiss (sports hernia).

“I don’t think anyone has seen anything like this,” Lashoff said. “It’s been weird for sure. A lot of guys have had opportunities to come up from Grand Rapids and guys have played more minutes than they would have before and those guys have been playing well and they’ve kept us in the hunt.”

Wing coach Mike Babcock said that despite the rash of injuries this year it doesn’t wear on him emotionally.

“I do the same every day, get up and do the best I can,” Babcock said. “I’m not carrying around the weight of the world, I don’t do that.”

Babcock said he’ll start with Brendan Smith paired with Niklas Kronwall on the blue line Thursday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“He’s just got to compete hard and make good decisions with the puck,” Babcock said. “Smitty’s got the competitive nature you need, he’s got the skating you need, the skill you need. His decision-making with the puck gets him in trouble at times and his decision making being active, so those are things you grow with, you become a better player. Do more by doing less, make the simple play, don’t force things, lots of shifts are 50-50, nothing happens.”

Smith began Tuesday’s game as the fourth-line forward before dropping back when Ericsson got injured.

Tatar scores lone goal in shootout as Wings get a very important extra point

DETROIT >> For a guy that wanted the shootout to end before it go to him, Tomas Tatar looked as confidence as can be when it was his turn to go in the glorified skills competition.

Tatar scored the lone goal in the shootout to give the Detroit Red Wings an important extra point as they skated by the Edmonton Oilers, 2-1, Friday night at Joe Louis Arena.

“I really didn’t know what to do,” Tatar said. “I was hoping all the time that the guys before me would score so I didn’t have to go, unfortunately they didn’t. I was happy my puck found a way to the net. Good for us.”

Todd Bertuzzi and Daniel Alfredsson each missed prior to Tatar’s attempt. Jimmy Howard stopped all three of the Oilers’ shootout tries.

“We were watching some highlights of a shootout before and I saw the goalie let lots of goals in on his glove (side),” Tatar said. “So I was going to be like smart since he would expect lots of shots there so I was trying to do something else. It worked.”

Tatar pulled the string off his backhand and went top shelf with his forehand, blocker side on Edmonton goalie Viktor Fasth, who finished with 22 saves.

Detroit is tied with Philadelphia with 73 points, but the Flyers still hold down the final wild card spot because they’ve played one less game and they also have more regulation wins than the Wings.

“They are huge,” Tatar said of the two points. “We need every point right now. That game was kind of sloppy. We put ourselves in a bad position when they tied up the game and we had a power play and couldn’t score. It was tough. We could play better. There are games like this and we are really happy to take those two points from them.”

Riley Sheahan scored in regulation for Detroit, which was 0-for-4 on the power play, and Howard made 21 saves.

“Definitely,” Sheahan said when asked if this extra point was a relief. “We’ve got to start winning some games. The standings being so tight, this is a good way to start. Now we just have to carry it over to Sunday.”

Ryan Smyth scored for the Oilers, who have lost eight in a row in Detroit. They last won at Joe Louis Arena on Dec. 3, 2009.

The Wings clung to a 1-0 lead heading to the third period when a very costly turnover from Brendan Smith led to the equalizer for Edmonton off the stick of Smyth.

“If he puts it on our guy’s tape and we skate out through the middle I like it,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “If you turn it over it doesn’t look very good.”

Smith tried to backhand a pass into the slot to a teammate, but instead it went right onto the blade of Smyth, who wristed a shot over Howard’s glove to even the game at 1-1.

“I absolutely didn’t expect that,” Smyth said. “I thought he was going to throw it around the boards. Smith just threw it up the middle.”

Smith immediately put both gloves on his head as he skated slowly to the bench, where he sat with his head down for a good length of time.

The Wings had a chance to end things in regulation and then again in overtime when Edmonton were called for back-to-back delay of game penalties for putting the puck off the glass.

“We’ve just got to focus on getting shots through and getting active at the net,” Sheahan said. “It comes in waves. Right now maybe we’re not getting the shots through that we want but I think it’ll come.”

Sheahan opened the scoring just past the midway point of the first period depositing a pretty pass from Tatar past Fasth.

Trying to shed an Edmonton player, Tatar began to take the puck behind the Oilers’ net, but instead spun back around and threaded a pass to Sheahan and he chipped his shot into the goal.

The goal came after a pretty lackluster power play by the Wings.

Helm progressing from his latest injury … a concussion

DETROIT >> Darren Helm took a baby step Friday in his hopes of returning to the Detroit Red Wings lineup from a concussion.

Helm participated in the team’s morning skate at Joe Louis Arena prior to the game against the Edmonton Oilers.

“I didn’t really get the heart beating too hard, still good to be out there in different elements,” Helm said afterwards. “I haven’t had any bad headaches or long-lasting ones. Every once in a while I get a slight headache or slight pressure up there but nothing where it’s been a huge concern to keep me off the ice or keep me from moving forward.”

Helm was diagnosed with a concussion by the same specialist the saw Patrick Eaves and Johan Franzen.

“I’ve been keeping close contact with him about my progress each day,” Helm said. “He says things are going well. Hopefully (Friday) will be another positive and I won’t feel anything tonight and we can keep pushing forward.”

Helm practiced on his own Thursday and needs to check with the doctors before taking part in a full practice.

Helm was injured in Ottawa on Feb. 27 when he hit his head hard on the ice. Later in the game he was grazed in the chin which also could have triggered it.

In the Wings’ next game his vision became blurry.

“That’s why we kind of stopped and re-evaluated,” Helm said. “I don’t know if I’ll know exactly how good that is until I start amping up my workouts and my skating because I did take two practices before (game at New Jersey) and had no issues. When I got to that game situation where I really going, that’s when the vision problems started happening. We just keep moving slowly with this and at some point we’ll test and see if that’s an issue.”

Franzen and Justin Abdelkader have missed time this season due to concussions.

“I’ve got a couple more days to go until we start thinking about getting back in the lineup, but anytime you get back on the ice it’s exciting,” said Helm, who hopes to travel to Chicago with the team. “That would be my goal (to return next week), just from watching other guys with concussions and head injuries, can’t really put a finger on when you think you’ll be back. We thought Mule was going to be back for the Olympics but he kept having complications and couldn’t go. Abby had one this year, he was good to go after a week and a half, so you don’t know how your body is going to react.”

Helm, who missed his fifth straight game Friday, has played in just 29 games this season.

Just this season alone, Helm has been sidelined with injuries to his groin, shoulder and back.

He was a last minute scratch prior to the Winter Classic due to the groin injury.

Helm returned to the lineup on Nov. 2 after playing in just two games over the last 19 months.

To begin the season, Helm was sidelined with a back problem and then his groin became an issue.

Howard will start Sunday; Zetterberg will play; Datsyuk’s chances of playing in the Olympics getting slim

DETROIT >> Quick update from Wings practice at Joe Louis Arena before they head out to Washington for a game with the Capitals Sunday at 12:30 p.m.

It appears that there won’t be any lineup changes for the game.

Jimmy Howard will start in goal and Henrik Zetterberg, despite not practicing, will play as well.

“I feel good,” Howard said. “It’s kind of nice. The injury wasn’t as significant as the one before. I wasn’t really all that worried about it.”

Friday was Howard’s first game back after missing four in a row due to a knee injury. He also missed eight games in December with a more severe knee injury.

Zetterberg also returned to the lineup Friday after missing two games with a reoccurring back issue.

“I felt pretty good in here,” Zetterberg smiled. “It felt good (Friday night). It was fun to be back playing again. I’m looking forward to (Sunday).”

Zetterberg missed 11 games in December with a herniated disc.

“I felt pretty good, better than I have the last couple of days (waking up),” Zetterberg said. “I played a game so that’s positive. It’s not fun to be out so it was a little never wracking to see it reacts, but it feels good.”

As for Pavel Datsyuk, it’s beginning to look more and more like his chances of participating in the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, are getting slimmer and slimmer.

“Nope,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said shrugging his shoulders when asked if there was anything new on Datsyuk.

Datsyuk is the captain for Russia.

Asked if he would be back before the Olympics, Babcock said, “I don’t know. I’m just like you. I just keep asking.”

Babcock also picked up his 400th with Detroit on Friday.

“Obviously I got my 400th before, but my 400th with Detroit means I’ve been here a while and I’ve had good players,” Babcock said. “Let’s be honest, this last little while I haven’t exactly been mowing them down. So mowed ‘em down for a long time and it’s been a bit of a grind here lately.”

And like many of his players, Babcock is picking Denver to win the Super Bowl.
“I lived in the Pacific Northwest,” Babcock said. “Mark Rypien is a friend of mine. I remember when he was with Indy and then came into Seattle and I’d go watch him there. But I got to pick Peyton Manning.

“He’s ultra-competitive,” added Babcock about Manning. “He’s a working machine. He and (Tom) Brady to me are incredible because they’re so intelligent and they execute so good and they’ve done it over and over and over again. I just think it’s impressive. But I also (respect) Seattle as well so who knows. Plus the NHL will be in Seattle one day.”

Alfredsson in for Bertuzzi against Canadiens; Howard and Andersson back soon

DETROIT >> Quick update from the Detroit Red Wings’ morning skate prior to their game tonight at Joe Louis Arena against the Montreal Canadiens.

Daniel Alfredsson will return to the lineup tonight, skating on a line with Darren Helm and Daniel Cleary.

“He’s playing tonight so that’s good for us, good to have him back,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We just have to keep him healthy.”

Alfredsson has missed the last six games with lower-back inflammation.

“It feels great I mean it’s always frustrating to be out and now be able to skate like I have and have no issues it feels great actually,” Alfredsson said after practice. “You work yourself in, definitely keep it simple and short shifts to get into it. You can skate as much as you want in practice but it’s a different pace in game, more physical as well so trying not to get caught out there too long is definitely going to help.”

Alfredsson has 31 goals and 74 assists in 89 games played against Montreal in his career.

“He’s a smart player, knows how to play,” Babcock said. “Helmer’s line struggled last game, so this gives him a chance.”

Alfredsson replaces Todd Bertuzzi in the lineup.

“Why don’t we just talk about the guys that are playing,” Babcock said when asked what he needs to see more out of Bertuzzi.

That’s the only lineup change from Wednesday’s 5-4 shootout win over the Chicago Blackhawks.

Every player, injured and healthy, took the morning skate.

“To be honest with you it’s way too many players out there for a pre-game skate,” Babcock said. “The goalie’s dying. It’s good to have guys coming back now they have to push to get their jobs back.”

Jimmy Howard (knee) skated for a second day.

“This was the plan we’ve had in place, just progress every day,” Howard said. “Today, it was going down in the butterfly, but in a controlled atmosphere out there and it felt pretty good.”

Howard, who injured his knee in the first period Monday against St. Louis, hopes to return Tuesday in Philadelphia.

“That’s what we’re shooting for,” Howard said. “It felt good going down in a controlled setting so it’s do more treatment, workout again tonight and see how it feels in the morning. We knew it wasn’t as serious as it was before. It’s good that it’s coming back this quickly.”

Joakim Andersson (lower-body) also skated and hopes to return Sunday at home against Florida.

“I’ll have a full skate (Saturday), so I hope Sunday, but I don’t know when they’ll put me in again. It’s getting better every day since New York.”

Andersson still would not reveal his injury, but did say it’s the first time he’s suffered it.

Alfredsson close to returning; Franzen has first non-foggy day; Wings set to face Canadiens

DETROIT – Quick update from Wings practice at Joe Louis Arena.

Today was a very optional skate with just a handful of guys taking part.

“We play every second day obviously and so we talked about this quite a few games ago, this is how we’re going to handle ourselves right through until we have a day off coming up,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Just make sure everyone’s ready to go. I didn’t come in here and evaluate yet. If you’re 23 and under and you weren’t on the ice I probably said something but the bottom line is we’ve got to be ready to play tomorrow.”

Detroit hosts Montreal on Friday.

Of the injured players, Daniel Alfredsson, Johan Franzen and Pavel Datsyuk took part in the practice.

Babcock won’t know if any of them will be ready to play Friday, but it appears highly unlikely.

“I don’t know he hasn’t done any negotiating with me,” Babcock said when asked about Alfredsson’s status. “I haven’t heard anything about it so we’ll see.

“We’ll talk to tomorrow after we skate,” Babcock continued. “It’s like anything, once you skate and you come back the next day sometimes that’s a little bit different so there’s no sense me making decisions I don’t need to make.”

Alfredsson, who has missed the last six games with lower-back inflammation, seemed very encouraged after the practice.

“Physically, I’m fine,” Alfredsson said. “I didn’t skate for 10 days at least, but I’ve had three good sessions here in a row and no setbacks. So that’s great. I’m feeling confident about coming back soon and I’ll have a discussion and we’ll come to a plan with what we’re going to do.”

Franzen also had an encouraging day.

“I’m just happy to not feel like I’m in the fog anymore,” Franzen said. “Like this is the first day. Hopefully it continues to go that way.”

Franzen has missed the last 15 games with a concussion.

“I need to talk to the medical staff and see what they think,” Franzen said. “I’ve had my better periods. I felt pretty good when we went to the West Coast, but then when I got back it felt worse than it ever did.”

Joakim Andersson (lower body), Cory Emmerton (finger) and Stephen Weiss (sports hernia) did not take part in practice with the team.

The Wings face a Canadiens team that’s just five points ahead of them in the Atlantic Division standings.

“They’re a quick team and have some high end talent,” Babcock said. “They’re goaltending’s outstanding so it’s going to be a handful. I think we’re (five) points behind them if I’m not mistaking and we play them (four) times so these are important games for us. We’re going to have to compete real hard. Obviously we’re a team that doesn’t score great right now so we got to really compete defensively and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”

The teams last met on Jan. 25, 2012 in Montreal with the Canadiens thumping the Wings, 7-2.

“It’s an historic franchise going back to a lot of years,” Alfredsson said. “I think in Montreal hockey is the sport, it’s followed by pretty much everybody in the city and everybody knows everything about the team, pretty much. It’s probably the favorite building to go to, to play a road game because of the atmosphere. I think because of their history it’s always a game you get up for.”

Detroit won the last meeting at Joe Louis Arena on Dec. 10, 2010, 4-2.

“The rivalry between the (Toronto Maple) Leafs and the Canadiens was always a big one for me and I always enjoyed watching those games,” Riley Sheahan said. “Montreal was one of those teams where I always hoped the Leafs would come out on top, so it’s going to be a good game. They have lots of skill and it will cross over into our game and it will be a good one.”