Getting Brad Stuart at the deadline has helped the Wings a lot with all the injuries they have suffered over the past few weeks but the best has yet to come.
Niklas Kronwall made his return in the same game as Stuart made his debut as a Red Wing both helping a depleted defense corps that forced a bunch of young guys and depth defensemen to play more against good opposition. Kronwall has 4 assists in 2 games since returning from his injury showing just how valuable he has been thus far for the Wings this season despite being over-shadowed by Lidstrom and Rafalski. Stuart since arriving in Detroit has no points while being a +2 in two games. His physical style of play has been a great addition to a defense that sorely needed it.
Now onto the good news...Rafalski is set to come back on tonight against the Blues! This should provide another good boost to the Wings defense, transition offense and to the powerplay. Even better news is that Lidstrom is practicing (non-contact drills) and has said he might be ready to play this Sunday!!! At worst we might have to wait until next week to have Lidstrom back on the Wings blueline which is awsome news. Chelios is praticing also like Lidstrom (non-contact drills) but is still unsure when he will be able to play as he suffered a minor set back last week...he is day to day.
Hasek also made his return and will be the Wings #1 goalie down the stretch playing 10 of 15 games to get "into a groove" as coach Babcock put it. Dan Cleary has also started to practice a bit but he's not ready to play yet. He lost 15 pounds from his liquide diet from having jaw surgery (jaw wired shut) so he will need some time before he can get his strenght back up along with his conditioning...his return is schedualed for the last 4 or 5 games of the season.
Overall the team is getting healthy again and should start to erase some of the doubts about this team's ability to compete with anyone some felt during their recent skid.
That being said, some of the youngster that filled in for the wounded deserve some credit despite the Wings losing slide. Jimmy Howard did a great job for the Wings showing glimpses of why he is thought to be the Wings goalie of the future. Jonathan Ericsson has impressed me everytime i've seen him play and has a bright future with the Wings if he keeps improving like he has the last 2 years. Derek Meech really stepped up his play with the amount of minutes he played and showed more confidence in his play for it by joining the rush and sneaking in from the point back door getting good scoring chances. Quincey did a good job but i kind of expected a bit more from him given his play last year in the playoffs.
The best part of all these inuries is some of the key players for the Wings got some much needed rest for what we hope to be a long playoff run. Wings should be 100% healthy once the playoffs start (unless more injuries or re-injuries occur) also with the addition of McCarty the Wings are hoping he might get the Grind Line going again with Maltby and Draper...at worst McCarty will provide some depth, energy and toughness for the Wings going into the playoffs.