Red Wings banking on health and depth for second half, as break concludes

Detroit News

Detroit — The Red Wings were back on the ice Sunday — many of them returning from warm-weather destinations — and were ready for the rest of the regular season.

The eight-day All-Star break — captain Dylan Larkin had a league-mandated off-day Sunday after taking part in the All-Star game and festivities over the weekend — got the Wings rested and ready for what they hope is a push to make the playoffs.

And, for the first time in a long time, the Wings’ lineup was healthy.

Well, at least until defenseman Filip Hronek hurt himself during practice and left the ice for the remainder of the session — coach Derek Lalonde said it was too early to determine the exact severity of the upper-body injury.

Still, the Wings are somewhat healthy. They hope that will be a key part of the second-half success they envision.

“It’s been a tough year for keeping everyone healthy,” said Robby Fabbri, who returned in January after major knee surgery. “But everyone is back, and it adds to a healthy competition, and we need that depth.”

Lalonde also mentioned the helpfulness of having depth, given the health of the roster.

“You hope for depth,” Lalonde said. “Looking at the roster before the break, the depth guys we were deciding on for in and out of the lineup, those were the guys that were in our top six (forwards, early in the season).”

The Wings won two of their last three games before the break, losing the finale, 2-0, on Long Island against the New York Islanders.

At 21-19-8 (50 points), the Wings find themselves seven points away from Pittsburgh and the second and final wild-card spot. Unfortunately, there are five teams between the Wings and Pittsburgh. And even though the Wings have played the fewest games among any of those teams — and as many as four or five less than several of the teams — it’s still going to be a huge mountain to climb.

The key, for Lalonde, will be playing with consistency. The Wings have played some impressive games in victories this season against elite teams. But, they’ve also lost against the bottom-feeders in the standings, which left everyone scratching their heads.

“I just think the consistency and getting over the hump and stringing together consistency hockey” said Lalonde, of what’ll be vital. “You can see how we were building, winning two of the last three games, and we won and we gave ourselves a chance on (Long Island) and we didn’t generate a ton (offensively), but we were right there.”

Fabbri alluded to the fact the Wings have made it hard on teams, and need to keep doing so these final two months.

“Kind of the way we’ve been playing and proving it to ourselves and to other teams it’s not easy when they come in here, or if we go on the road,” Fabbri said. “We’re going to want more results, and those are two points every night. This has been a good rest for a lot of guys and getting healthy for the last little bit.”

Fabbri doesn’t study the standings that closely. It’s more about what the Wings have done, and can do.

“I glance here and there, but the biggest thing is to worry about what is going on in here,” Fabbri said. “We can’t control other teams winning or losing. We just control what we can do.”

Erne headed to GR

Adam Erne cleared waivers Sunday and was sent to minor-league affiliate Grand Rapids.

Erne was a healthy scratch for five of the last 13 games, and the Wings had to recall Jonatan Berggren, making Erne expendable. It was Berggren’s performance this season, said Lalonde, that simply gave Berggren the edge for the available roster spot.

“Probably more of a credit to Berggren and that spot, Berggren played his way into it,” Lalonde said. “Adam cleared, so he’ll be in Grand Rapids and another body that will be available to us.”

The Wings activated Filip Zadina off the injured list last week and sent Berggren to Grand Rapids in a paper transaction.

Erne was in the second year of a two-year contract worth $4.2 million ($2.1 million salary-cap hit) and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Ice chips

Lalonde wants to get Zadina into a game soon this week. Zadina had one goal during a two-game conditioning stint in Grand Rapids over the weekend. Zadina had been out of action since November, when he suffered a foot injury.

… Lalonde didn’t have a clear update on Hronek, after the defenseman left practice early.

“He didn’t return (to practice) and we’ll know more (Monday) in the morning,” Lalonde said, noting Hronek may have gotten hurt during a drill.

… Lalonde said defenseman Mark Pysyk (Achilles heel) is likely done for the season, after Pysyk hurt himself training in the offseason and hasn’t been able to get himself healthy enough to return to playing.

Defenseman Robert Hagg, who just returned to the active roster after being out because of a lower-body injury since December 8, is still in the Wings’ plans. Lalonde said the Wings have been fortunate injuries haven’t hurt the Wings on defense, but Hagg is in the mix.

Twitter: @tkulfan

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