Morning Skate: The Blues

The Red Wings and St. Louis Blues meet for the fifth time this season. 

The big news right off the top: Johan Franzen is returning after missing the last 55 games with a torn left ACL. Expect to see him on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, if the practices leading up to game time are to be trusted.

Jimmy Howard is getting the start again, his sixth in a row and 24th in the last 26 games. Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock addressed the concerns regarding the possibility that he's overplaying Howard. Hint: he doesn't think so.

While it is exciting that The Mule is returning, there are some new injury woes facing the Red Wings:
Drew Miller (bruise ankle) is healthy enough to be in the lineup. 
Tomas Holmstrom (left knee) is a game-time decision.
Patrick Eaves (sprained ankle) is out.
Niklas Kronwall (knee, again) will sit out again. 
Andreas Lilja (post concussion symptoms) is still in Grand Rapids on his conditioning assignment. More on that in a minute...

If Tomas Holmstrom can't go, Brad May will be in the lineup. May has been practicing as if he'll be playing.

The Blues have won three of the four matchups this season, and have outscored the Red Wings 13-10. 

More news and tidbits after the jump...

St. Louis is batting .500 this season, coming into this game 25-25-9, good for fourth place in the Central Division and 13th place in the Western Conference.

No word on St. Louis' starting goaltender, but starting goalie database Left Wing Lock seems to think it'll be former Red Wing Ty Conklin

Henrik Zetterberg has three goals in his last three games - and leads the team with sixteen goals overall. 

Andy McDonald leads the Blues in goals, with 17, and he's tied with Brad Boyes for the lead in points (35). 

New acquisition Ole-Kristian Tollefsen successfully cleared waivers and was assigned to the Griffins of the AHL. In somewhat related, yet not at all surprising news, Ville Leino was a healthy scratch for his first game with the Flyers.  

 

This is the final week of NHL play before the Olympic Games begin in Vancouver. They are very important games, as the Wings still find themselves on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. 

The Red Wings have been granted a conditioning stint extension for Lilja -- meaning he's allowed to stay in the AHL for two more games. His stint will expire after the Griffins and Aeros game on Friday. That will make for some tough decisions, as the Red Wings will have to clear a body and approximately $2 million from their salary to allow Lilja to fit (assuming none of the current injured players are placed on LTIR). Long story short: this may be the last couple of games for Brett Lebda, Derek Meech, and/or Brad May. Stay tuned.

 

Detroit Red Wings Expected Lineup
Datsyuk - Zetterberg - Franzen
Bertuzzi - Filppula - Cleary
Draper - Helm - May [ouch]
Maltby - Williams - Miller

 

 

Lidstrom - Rafalski
Stuart - Ericsson
Lebda - Meech

 

Howard (starting)

Join us in the game thread tonight -- guaranteed good times!*

*not a guarantee (I had to get ONE Simpsons reference in)

 

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