Waiting On The Red Wings

Detroit's fall from grace has been attributed to a lot of things-- the increasing age of their roster (compounded by two straight Stanley Cup Finals appearances and a trip overseas to start the year), the loss of 40-goal scorer Marian Hossa to Chicago, Jiri Hudler's flight to the KHL, Bertuzzi's black mark (who, admittedly, may have revived his career this season), and the lack of depth in a minor league system that has been hurt by low draft picks due to the success of the big club on an annual basis.

Then there are the injuries, vast and expansive as fallout from the botched Copenhagen talks.

Detroit Red Wings Injuries

Player Pos. Injury Type Return
Valtteri Filppula
Wrist Late December
Jason Williams
Broken Leg Mid-January
Dan Cleary
F Shoulder Mid-January
Niklas Kronwall D
Sprained MCL January
Johan Franzen
F Torn ACL Mid-February
Andreas Lilja
Concussion Indefinite
Jonathan Ericsson
D Knee Indefinite
Henrik Zetterberg
F Shoulder Indefinite

To put that in perspective, it would be akin to playing without Malhotra, McGinn, Ortmeyer, Blake, Setoguchi, Murray, Huskins, and Marleau.

All at the same time.

And yet, despite the absence of those key cogs in the wheels of the, well, Winged Wheel, Detroit sits one point out of a playoff spot heading into tonight's matchup with the Chicago Blackhawks. Jimmy Howard has managed to wrestle the starting spot between the pipes from mainstay Chris Osgood and, if the Red Wings manage to squeeze their way into the top eight by season's end, will be set with a one-two punch ripe with current results (Howard) and experience in high-pressure situations (Osgood).

Babcock's done a helluva job keeping this team above water for the first half of the season, and it's not out of the question to expect the Red Wings to make a run once the majority of their team begins to return in January. They're definitely a playoff team, likely in the 4-5 slot, and a dangerous one at that considering the top-end performers on the roster.

Something tells me it's going to be at least another year until the Ewoks can safely cheer from the rebel moons of Endor.

The Empire hasn't fallen quite yet.