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Michigan men: Red Wings will have Zetterberg and Cleary but Kings might not have Matt Greene

January 6, 2010 |  6:13 pm

Just what the Kings didn’t need to hear: the hurting but always dangerous Red Wings will get reinforcements Thursday at Staples Center with the return of forwards Henrik Zetterberg  and Dan Cleary.

Both had been forced out of the lineup by shoulder injuries. The skillful Zetterberg, who practiced Wednesday at the Honda Center with Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom, has been out since Dec. 17. The gritty Cleary, out since Dec. 9, skated alongside Valtteri Filppula and Todd Bertuzzi.

Zetterberg, named last week to Sweden’s Olympic team along with fellow Red Wings Nick Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall and Tomas Holmstrom,  said Wednesday he’s feeling okay and that he didn’t rush his return because the Red Wings stand in ninth place in the West and out of playoff position.

Kingslogo “You always want to get back as soon as possible. It’s never fun to be injured,” he said. “You want to be back. You’ve just got to find the right time to decide if you’re healed enough and then just go out and play.”

The Red Wings have had as many as six premier players out of their lineup at one time this season, and they’re still missing forward Johan Franzenand defensemen Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson. They’ve managed to stay within five points of the last playoff spot in part because of the resurgence of Todd Bertuzzi, who has had eight goals and 12 points in his last 12 games. That’s nearly half the 25 points he has in total this season.

Bertuzzi, who had a brief and unproductive stint with the Ducks, said tonight’s game is “crucial big-time” because it’s a conference game and the Red Wings need to make up ground on the teams that are ahead of them, like the Kings. Lose a few games and a team can drop from top to bottom—or out of contention.

“That’s what the league wants. The league wants parity,” Bertuzzi said. “It’s a grind, especially with the schedule being crunched the way it is. We dug ourselves this spot and we’ve just got to get ourselves out of it.”

Speaking of hockey players from Michigan, the folks back in Grand Ledge, Mich., might not be able to see their hometown product, Kings defenseman Matt Greene, play tonight. Greene left the Kings’ practice Wednesday early after his back seized up, Coach Terry Murray said, and he’s questionable for the game. Murray said Greene underwent treatment after his back flared up on Tuesday and that Greene would continue to undergo treatment and will be re-evaluated Thursday morning.

-- Helene Elliott