By ALAN FERGUSON, STATS Writer
A long list of injuries is one reason why the Detroit Red Wings are uncharacteristically on the playoff bubble this season.
The Red Wings, though, are hoping to get a boost in that postseason drive with the return of Johan Franzen(notes) on Tuesday night against the St. Louis Blues, the finale of a five-game trip.
Detroit entered this season searching for its ninth straight Central Division title and 19th consecutive playoff berth. The Red Wings, who lost three key scorers in the offseason to two NHL clubs and a Russian team, have had another six spend time on injured reserve since Franzen tore his left ACL on Oct. 8.
In part because of those injuries, Detroit (27-21-10) is ninth in the Western Conference with 64 points, two behind Nashville.
The Red Wings haven’t helped their chances by going 3-5-2 since Jan. 18. They collected three points in the first two games of their trip before suffering back-to-back defeats.
Detroit faltered early in a 3-1 loss to Anaheim on Wednesday night, but Saturday’s 4-3 loss to Los Angeles might have been even more deflating.
Henrik Zetterberg(notes) sandwiched a pair of goals around Valtteri Filppula’s(notes) score in the first period. Los Angeles, however, tied it with three second-period goals and got the go-ahead score with 2:21 remaining.
“We can’t sit and pout and feel sorry for ourselves,” forward Todd Bertuzzi(notes) said. “It’s getting to a point where the games are numbered, so we’ve got to turn this thing around before the break and get some momentum going.”
Getting Franzen back on the ice for the first time in 55 games could help. The right winger was the Red Wings’ second-leading goal scorer (34) in 2008-09 while also setting a career high with 59 points.
He had a goal and an assist in the first three games this season before suffering his injury in the team’s home opener, a 3-2 win over Chicago.
“I’m really excited,” Franzen told the team’s Web site. “Hopefully with a good first game I can get some confidence and hopefully feel good in the other games.”
Taking advantage of the league’s worst home team—one that’s suffered three straight overall losses—also could help the Red Wings. Defenseman Niklas Kronwall(notes), though, is expected to miss the game with an ailing knee. Tomas Holmstrom(notes) (left leg) and Patrick Eaves(notes) (sprained left ankle) are also doubtful.
At the start of a three-game homestand, St. Louis (25-25-9) is 9-16-5 at the Scottrade Center and has dropped four in a row there, one shy of matching its worst skid from Dec. 18-Jan. 2.
To snap that losing streak, the Blues could use more scoring. A 5-2 loss in Colorado on Monday night marked the seventh time in eight games they’ve scored two or fewer goals.
St. Louis scored both its goals in the first 7:59 against the Avalanche but allowed three in the second period.
“We thought had things going, and they get three goals,” defenseman Darryl Sydor(notes) said. “It was down hill from there.”
St. Louis has suffered its past three losses by a 11-5 margin but has outscored the Red Wings 13-9 this season while winning three of four. Right wing Brad Boyes(notes) has a team-leading three goals in those games, but has scored once in his last 24 games.
Franzen has six goals and five assists in his last 11 meetings with the Blues, who held him to one point in sweeping two games from the Red Wings in Sweden.