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Wings GM Ken Holland: “I would love to make a deal to make us a little bit better.”

DETROIT >> For Wings general manager Ken Holland, his approach to this year’s NHL trade deadline is set in stone.

“If there’s a player that can upgrade us, whether it’s up front or on defense we’ll do something, but obviously we have a lot of people playing at a high level,” Holland said during a phone interview Sunday.

The deadline is Monday at 3 p.m.

“There’s a small list of players we have some interest in that we think would be a good fit for our team, but I understand there’s other teams in the buyers category and sometimes the price is too high,” Holland said. “But sometimes the price is the same, but the other team’s pick might be higher or they like the other team’s prospect over ours.”

The player they would bring in has to provide an important element and dimension to the roster. A top four defenseman that shoots right handed or a winger that can provide offense could fit that bill.

It appears the asking price for any of the players Detroit, which has close to $9 million in cap space, has on its list is a prospect and second-round pick in return.

“I would love to make a deal to make us a little bit better, to upgrade us a little bit, but I also feel with the way, not only with the way our players are playing here in Detroit, but the development of our young players in Grand Rapids I feel good about the depth,” Holland said. “I understand they’re young players and when we get into the Stanley Cup playoffs that you’re not sure how they’re going to react, but as you look at other teams out there, the league is younger. Because of the cap there are lots of good young players. We might have a lot of young players on our team, but do the other teams.”

Besieged by injuries last season, mainly at center, the Wings made a last minute deal for David Legwand. They gave up Patrick Eaves, Calle Jarnkrok and what turned into a second-round draft pick after they reached the playoffs for a 23rd straight season.

“Would we like to make an addition? Yes,” Holland said. “Do I feel we have to make an addition? No. But we’re going to explore the market place and if we can do something, we’d always like to do something.”

Heading into play Sunday, the Wings were a point behind Tampa Bay for second in the Atlantic Division with three games.

They have the best power play in the league and ninth best penalty kill.

“We think we’ve got a pretty good team,” Holland said. “We’ve played all of the best teams in the East and West and we seem to hang in there on a night to night basis, whether we win or we lose the games are really close.

“If we can make a move, I would love to, but if we have some conversations and some of the teams choose to go in a different direction and we don’t make a move I’m comfortable when three o’clock rolls around and we don’t make a move,” Holland continued. “Would I like to make a move? Yes, if it’s for a player we think, at a price that we can live with.”

Helm could miss ‘a bit of time’ with upper-body injury

DETROIT >> Darren Helm’s injury free life appears to be no more.

Helm was injured in the first period of Saturday’s over the Nashville Predators.

“It appears he’s out for a bit of time,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “I have no idea until we know the severity of the injury.”

Helm is scheduled to have an MRI performed Monday.

Holland said it’s an upper body injury.

Helm was hit by Nashville’s Seth Jones behind the net and his head hit the top of the dasher boards.

Helm, who has missed time over the past few seasons with numerous injuries, including groin, concussion, forearm, back and knee, had appeared in all 61 games this season.

This and that … Zetterberg doesn’t practice, but will play Thursday; Franzen still MIA

DETROIT >> Henrik Zetterberg was absent at practice, but will play Thursday according to Wings general manager Ken Holland.

— Petr Mrazek will start in Colorado

— Jonas Gustavsson will complete his two-game conditioning stint with Grand Rapids Wednesday in Toronto and then join the team in Denver.

— There has still been no sign of Johan Franzen in the Wings’ locker room since he was injured on Jan. 6. “I don’t think he’s doing great, but I don’t really know,” Holland said. “He doesn’t come here. Until he gets to the point where they’re telling me he’s starting to work out, he’s starting to train, we run the team like they’re not on the team.”

Jimmy Howard has a target date for his return … Feb. 11 in Pittsburgh

DETROIT >> As far as recovering from an injury goes, everything is right on track for Wings goalie Jimmy Howard.

Howard took part in his first practice with the team Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena, albeit splitting time with Tom McCollum, since injuring his groin in the first period Jan. 10 in Washington.

“Even though it was just spot duty it felt great to be back out there,” Howard said. “I was out there before on my own with (goalie coach) Jimmy (Bedard) and then came out and did all the goalie drills at the beginning and stayed out for about 30 minutes in practice. It was good, didn’t really feel anything, so we’re just going to continue to push it.”

The best news is he has a target date to return, a week from Wednesday on the road against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“I think we’re right on schedule of where we want to be,” Howard said. “We don’t want to push it too soon, but we also don’t want to be out longer than I have to be, so we’re doing everything I think at the right pace.

“Hopefully against Pittsburgh I’ll be back out there,” Howard continued. “That’s what we’re shooting for. At first we had Phoenix circled, but we thought that would probably be just rushing it a little too much and Pitt will allow me a couple more practices to push it.”

Howard will gradually increase the intensity at practices during the Wings’ trip to Colorado and Arizona.

“Basically I bag myself out there so the legs and lungs are ready to go,” Howard said.

Howard was injured after he gave the puck away behind the net and then lunged his left leg backwards to try and reach the post before Washington’s Troy Brouwer scored just 1:53 into the first period.

He was carted off on a stretcher.

“I think I definitely escaped series injury,” Howard said. “When it happened I was really nervous, not being able to put any pressure on the leg or basically walk. I was on crutches for 24-48 hours. It responded well after a couple of days of being off of it.”

Howard is in the midst of having one of his best seasons in Detroit, posting a 16-7-7 record, with a 2.11 goals-against average and .920 save percentage.

He was also the Wings’ lone All-Star choice, but could not participate at the event because of the injury.

Despite his absence Detroit has gone 7-1-0 with Petr Mrazek getting the bulk of the workload.

“It’s progressed every single day, so it’s good,” Howard said. “We haven’t had any setbacks, knock on wood. Hopefully we can just keep pushing it.”

Babcock salutes Super Bowl champ Belichick

DETROIT >> Wings coach Mike Babcock has been a big fan of New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, whose team won its fourth Super Bowl in 14 years on Sunday.

“He wins,” Babcock said. “He’s a life-long learner. He wins multiple different ways. They change their roster every year. They build their identity based on what their roster is that year. Their offense is always changing. If he has time to plan he has ways to make your offense go away.

“I just think they’re incredible and they’ve been doing it for 14-15 years,” Babcock continued. “We have a whole bunch of teams that come and go. We see it every year. This team’s hot, this team’s going to be good and I still look around and where are they? There’s a couple ways to get good in our league. One is you’ve been bad for 10 straight years, go through a whole bunch of coaches and by that time you’ve drafted well so you can be good. Or you just keep grinding. I like what they do because I think that’s what we do.”

Detroit in ‘good spot’ as trade deadline nears

DETROIT >> With the NHL trade deadline less than a month away, Wings coach Mike Babcock and general manager Ken Holland met with that in mind Monday at Joe Louis Arena.

“We talked about our team, our minor league team, but this isn’t just about the trade deadline,” Babcock said. “Ken and I talk every day I think. There are no surprises, he knows what I want. Now in the end can you do what a guy wants? Is it possible or is the cost too great, short term, long term, all those things.

“In the end Ken has the final decision on all this, just like our roster,” Babcock continued. “That doesn’t mean I have tons to say. During the game I decide who goes on the ice, but he gives a ton of feedback in that area too, but we talk after each game too. That’s how we work together.”

The Wings have 67 points through 50 games and sit a point behind Tampa Bay for first place overall in the Eastern Conference and three points behind Nashville and Anaheim for first overall in the NHL.

“We’re in a good spot today,” Babcock said. “If you remember a few years back, we were in first, on top in the league, and we made a move to trade for Kyle Quincey. Then everybody got hurt. Even when we got them back we never got going again.”

The Wings finished fifth overall in the Western Conference that season and fell in five games to Nashville in the first round of the playoffs.

“Nick Lidstrom broke his leg and he was never Nick Lidstrom again,” Babcock said. “We had a number of injuries, unbelievable. We make the move and the whole team gets hurt. We might have won only five games after that point of the year so when you look at it we’re in a good spot today, but let’s understand it’s today and the league is moving ahead and you have to win games.”

The Wings’ most pressing need is a right-handed-shooting defenseman who can play the point on the power play. Two that could be available are Washington’s Mike Green or Buffalo’s Tyler Meyers, but they’re not going to part with any of their top prospects to obtain them.

“You always have a wish list of what you need to try and improve your team,” Babcock said. “Sometimes it’s reasonable and sometimes it’s not reasonable. That’s the general manager’s job and the pro scouts to sort that out.”

The Wings have not been a major player during recent trade deadlines and Henrik Zetterberg doesn’t see them doing much on or before March 2.

“Everyone knows when the deadline is and there will be some moves, but if you look back in our history, it’s not often that something happens,” Zetterberg said. “Last year we had a lot of injuries and we made a deal to get (David) Legwand. This year we’re healthy so I don’t expect us to do much but if something happens it will happen. It’s part of the sport and you just deal with it.

“I think if you’re one of the top teams and you get a new player, that player will do something good,” Zetterberg continued. “I think that’s the caliber of player you will get. He will be a good player. If that happens, I don’t think it will be uneasy to get him in the mix, but if nothing happens, nothing happens.”

Wings injury updates … Howard skates briefly on his own; Jurco takes part in full practice

DETROIT >> Here are a few injury updates.

— Tomas Jurco (lower back pain) took part in his first full practice since leaving after two periods against Edmonton on Jan. 6. It’ll all depend how he reacts Tuesday morning if he’ll be back in the lineup.

“I felt good,” Jurco said. “It wasn’t too hard, but it’s different in a game. Way different. I need to make sure I’m ready then I can go.”

— Jimmy Howard (groin) skated on his own briefly for the first time since getting injured on Jan. 10. He’ll make the road trip to Florida.

“I don’t want to say anything just yet,” Howard said when asked about a possible date for his return. “We don’t know what’s going to happen in the near future. We’re just going to keep following the timetable we have, 3-4 weeks and hopefully it just keeps getting better.”

Howard said he hasn’t watched the replay of his injury, that he had to taken out on a stretcher when it occurred.

“I don’t know if it was when my foot hit the post or when I extended,” Howard said. “I heard something pop and found out the next day I had a tear.

“I was in so much pain,” Howard continued. “But after a week I was able to go up and down the stairs and everything like that again, so it was kind of nice.”

— Jonas Gustavsson (shoulder) and Jakub Kindl (sprained elbow) practiced. Both are most likely out Tuesday, which means defenseman Xavier Ouellet will remain in the lineup and goalie Tom McCollum with backup Petr Mrazek.

— Johan Franzen (concussion-like symptoms) did not practice.