DETROIT — If you think the Red Wings’ injured players are tired of talking about being hurt, you should hear coach Mike Babcock.
"I’ve said this a number of times this year, enough to make me want to puke, is that I’m focused on the players that are here," Babcock said after Wednesday’s morning practice at Detroit’s City Rink.
Still, you have to ask if Pavel Datsyuk (lower-body injury), Daniel Alfredsson (back spasms), Darren Helm (groin), Johan Franzen (concussion), Jonathan Ericsson (ribs), Jonas Gustavsson (groin) might be available for Thursday’s game in New York.
"No possibility of getting anybody back," Babcock said.
Datsyuk and Alfredsson did not practice with the team but did some off-ice work at Joe Louis Arena, which is in the process of returning to normal after Ford held an auto show event there Monday.
"I’m not expecting this way," Datsyuk said. "I thinking I’m going to miss one game and come back but it’s not feel great. Just fight through."
Datsyuk said he was not making the trip to New York.
"No, I’m not going tomorrow," Datsyuk said. "Need another couple days and then we’ll see when team comes back. Skate with team again and then we’ll see what happens."
Datsyuk declined to elaborate on his injury and whether it bothered him while skating.
"It’s so secret," Datsyuk said. "I know you work for Canada or the U.S."
But one player will return for Thursday — goaltender Jimmy Howard.
Howard missed Sunday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks with a hip flexor issue.
"I knew it wasn’t going to be much from the other night," Howard said. "More so than anything the muscle itself just felt really fatigued, felt it needed a bit of a break. Better to take one night off than to go out there and cause further harm and be out 2-3 weeks."
Babcock said Howard was likely to go but the final determination would be made after Thursday’s morning skate.
The Wings are no exception, especially Howard, a New York native.
"Growing up being from Upstate New York, having the Rangers be my favorite team growing up, it’s always special when you get to go to play at MSG," Howard said. "I think it’s one of the best places to play in the NHL."
Niklas Kronwall agreed, with one caveat.
"It’s a very special place, no doubt about it," Kronwall said. "I wish the ice was a little better. They do have 500 events a year or whatever. It’s hard to keep the ice, obviously, at the best conditions but they do as good of a job as they can."
As for the Rangers, Babcock watched their game against the Tampa Bay Lightning Tuesday night.
"I thought good depth up front," Babcock said. "They’ve got their guys back and healthy. So (Ryan) McDonagh on the back and (Dan) Girardi, (Marc) Staal. The important players, (Henrik) Lundqvist obviously one of the best in the world.
"I thought Tampa is a real quick team and I thought the Rangers had real good transition in the game, and it looked like they have depth in scoring. So we’re really going to have to manage our game."
The Rangers have moved ahead of the Wings in the Eastern Conference race, into seventh place with 51 points. The Wings are currently ninth with 50 points.
"It seems like they’ve been playing some hockey here the last few weeks," Kronwall said. "They’re back in the game. They had a little sluggish start, if I’m not mistaken. I think they’ve been really coming around. It seems like they’ve been finding their game a little bit more here as of late."
Howard said the key for the Rangers is Lundqvist, the goaltender.
"They’re playing a lot more open style of hockey compared to what they have in the past when they were a lot more defensive-minded," Howard said. "I’m not saying they’re not now but it seems like the defensemen are jumping up more in the play from watching them on TV.
"Lundqvist seems to be playing a lot better as of late. He’s the one that drives the bus for that team. We’re going to have to find a way to make his life difficult."
"I was really tired yesterday," Howard said. "It was tough getting home at 5:30 in the morning but thankful that both our West Coast swings are over now and we’ll primarily be in the Eastern time zone. I’ll be nice from here out."
Kronwall said he’s noticed a difference in travel now that the Wings are in the Eastern Conference.
"It’s a big difference, even just going to Colorado or one of those places," Kronwall said. "You get back a lot later with the time change than say you play Boston or whatever on the East coast. It is a big difference, no doubt."