Wings’ Kindl ready to play, but healthy scratch against Lightning

Jakub Kindl has been out since an elbow injury suffered Dec. 29 at Boston.

Tim Fuller

Red Wings defenseman Jakub Kindl has been cleared to play, but will probably be a healthy scratch tonight when Detroit faces off against Tampa Bay in the battle for Atlantic Division supremacy, according to General Manager Ken Holland.

Kindl has been out since an elbow injury suffered Dec. 29 at Boston. His return gives the Wings eight healthy defensemen with Brian Lashoff, who has appeared in just 11 games this season — and not since late December. That’s a luxury the Wings won’t be able to afford when Johan Franzen returns. He’s been out since Jan. 7 with an upper body injury. Holland indicated that rookie Xavier Ouellet, who has played well (two goals among three points and plus-7 rating in 20 games) since he was promoted from Grand Rapids, would be the likely candidate to return to the minors when that happens.

Holland had hoped to have a better read on his goaltending situation by today, but the Wings will return to practice Friday at Joe Louis Arena with four goalies. Jimmy Howard and Jonas Gustavsson, the organization’s top two goalies when the season started, are both rehabbing injuries. Gustavsson dislocated his left shoulder on Nov. 5 and has practiced with the team since Monday, when players returned from their five-day break for the NHL All-Star game.

The Wings are waiting for Gustavsson to declare he’s ready for game action.

"We’re not there yet," Holland said. "I’m not sure where we’re at, but we’re waiting for the player to tell us he’s ready to go. When he’s ready, we’ll have a conversation."

At that point, it’s likely Gustavsson will get a rehab assignment with Grand Rapids, he added.

"My philosophy is that the doctors, the training staff and the player — all three — have a say in it before the player returns," Holland said. "It’s out of respect for how hard it is to play this game, the mental challenges, the confidence level. They’ve got to feel great about their health. Then you take the next step."

So it will be for Howard, the club’s No. 1 goalie who was having an All-Star season when he sustained a groin tear on Jan. 10. Howard has skated on his own this week while the team played games in Florida and Tampa, but he remains 2-3 weeks away from returning.

In their absence, the Wings were 6-0 heading into tonight’s game against the Lightning, with Mrazek owning a 5-0 record in six starts since the Howard injury.