Injured Red Wings closer to return

Coach Mike Babcock is not getting his hopes up but a couple of the injured Red Wings feel they're ready or close to being ready to play.

Jonathan Ericsson said he felt good after participating in his first full practice.

Rick Osentoski / USA TODAY Sports

DETROIT -- Coach Mike Babcock is not getting his hopes up but a couple of the injured Red Wings feel they're ready or close to being ready to play.

Pavel Datsyuk (lower-body injury), Johan Franzen (concussion), Jimmy Howard (hip flexor), Jonathan Ericsson (fractured ribs), Darren Helm (groin) and Jonas Gustavsson (groin) all participated in at least part of practice Tuesday at Detroit's City Rink.

Joe Louis Arena was not available after a Ford event for the auto show preview.

Daniel Alfredsson (back spasms), Henrik Zetterberg (maintenance) and Tomas Tatar (bereavement) did not practice.

Tatar is in Slovakia for his father's funeral and will not return for Thursday's game in New York.

Let's just talk about the guys that are playing

Mike Babcock

"I know what we have available to us so that's how I look at it," Babcock said. "We spent the whole year talking about this, to me it's a waste of energy, let's just talk about the guys that are playing."

According to Howard, he's ready to go.

"I don't see why not," Howard said. "Practiced today so it was fine out there."

Howard said his hip flexor issue was likely due to fatigue, not anything that happened against the Los Angeles Kings Saturday.

Gustavsson was a little less certain about the possibility of playing Thursday.

"We haven't talked about Thursday, we'll see," Gustavsson said. "For me it's just about getting better and better now and taking the next step. It's good to be able to skate a little bit with the team today and that felt good but I don't know if I'm going to be back Thursday or this weekend or when it is."

Ericsson said he felt good after participating in his first full practice.

"I think it healed up pretty well," Ericsson said. "I feel a lot better now. I can do pretty much everything on the ice. It's just a matter of seeing if it's good enough for battling in the corners and stuff like that. I haven't really done much of that yet."

Ericsson said he's aiming for Saturday's home game against the Kings. He is going to try wearing a protective guard around his ribs.

The news was not quite as promising for Franzen or Helm.

"Didn't feel great today," Franzen said. "Get a little dizzy from all the movement, hard time focusing and stuff like that."

With concussions, there's no way of knowing when those symptoms will subside.

Helm is understandably tired of talking about his health the last few seasons.

"Not bad, not great. Not good enough. Getting better," Helm said. "I need to get a couple good skates under my belt, one really good one and then I'll go. I don't know when that's gonna be."

Wings' kids forced into action
Because of all the injuries, many guys who were with the Grand Rapids Griffins at the start of the season are playing with the Wings.

Those include Riley Sheahan, who scored his first goal Saturday, Luke Glendening, Petr Mrazek and Tomas Jurco.

"They're good players. They can help us," Babcock said. "That's what's supposed to happen in hockey, they eventually take jobs here. They've been real good here when they've come up."

Sheahan credited the Griffins' attention to detail for helping the young players be ready when they're called upon.

"We got a really good system down there, great coaching, a great group of guys down there," Sheahan said. "So when you go down there it's a really easy environment to sort of get better. They push you a lot in the weight room and on the ice during practice is pretty intense so it's helped a lot for me and I know the other guys as well."

Reaction to Sheahan's first goal
Sheahan's first NHL goal came on a rebound of Tatar's shot.

"It was definitely a little bit surreal," Sheahan said. "But you're kind of in the moment of the game and you just sort of think about how you can help the team win. It sort of started to build more towards when the game ended and I started checking my phone and saw all the text messages and people congratulating me so that was pretty special."

Sheahan said the first people he spoke to were his parents.

"My mom was just telling me stories about the people dancing around the house and things like that so it was cool to share that with them and they had a good time with it," Sheahan said.

One of the fun parts of scoring his first NHL goal was getting mobbed by the veteran Wings afterward.

"There are so many good guys, good characters around here so they were all pretty pumped, I think," Sheahan said. "You feel more confident and it's a little more special when you have guys saying congratulations, guys like Bert (Todd Bertuzzi) and I mean everybody in here said congratulations so it was pretty special."