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NHL Detroit Red Wings

Long Break Gives Detroit Red Wings Chance To Get Closer To Full Strength

Pavel Datsyuk Injury

Rick Osentoski – USA TODAY Sports

Injuries have been plentiful for the Detroit Red Wings this season, but a lengthy break before the start of a three-game California road trip should help at least a few players return to health. Fresh off a convincing 5-1 win over the Dallas Stars on Saturday, the Red Wings get four days off before they face the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night. The game against the Kings will pit 2014 Team USA teammates Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Quick against each other, and Howard could have a few more weapons in front of him than he did on Saturday.

Pavel Datsyuk is battling a groin injury and is listed as day-to-day, which makes it seem there is a good chance he could play on Thursday. Defenseman Danny DeKeyser is another likely candidate to return to the lineup to face the Kings, while Johan Franzen (concusssion) could return for games on Saturday and Sunday. Franzen has been out since Dec. 19 but has been cleared to return to practice. Darren Helm (groin) and Jonathan Ericsson (ribs) will likely be out a bit longer, though each stretch without games should bring them closer to a healthy return. Backup goaltender Jonas Gustavsson (groin) is also expected to be nearing a return, which would see Petr Mrazek returned to the AHL.

The Red wings have won four of their last seven games, and are holding on to a playoff spot by three points. Getting Datsyuk back would be a big boost for an offense that remains streaky, although captain Henrik Zetterberg has stepped up his game while other forwards have been out. Zetterberg leads the team with 36 points, while Datsyuk has the team lead in goals with 15. With their next three games coming against Western Conference playoff teams, it is more important than ever that the Red Wings have a healthy lineup. Four-day breaks are incredibly uncommon during the season, and this one couldn’t have come at a better time for Detroit.

Jonathan Katje is an NHL featured columnist for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter or add him to your circles on Google Plus.