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Lilja set to return, Maltby to IR

Thursday, 02.25.2010 / 7:17 PM ET / News
By Michelle Crechiolo  - DetroitRedWings.com Intern
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Lilja set to return, Maltby to IR
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DETROIT – After a long, tough year, Andreas Lilja is finally set to return to the Red Wings’ lineup when the team resumes the NHL schedule against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center.

Lilja last played nearly a year ago – Feb. 28 – when a fight with Nashville’s Shea Weber sidelined the Wings’ defenseman with concussion-like symptoms. After 12 months of recurring headaches, he has been symptom-free long enough for team doctors to clear him to play.

“I’m really, really excited. I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” Lilja said after Thursday’s practice at Joe Louis Arena. “It’s going to be an unbelievable feeling just stepping out on the ice Monday and actually playing for some points again. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Earlier this month, Lilja was assigned to the Wings’ AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids for a four-game conditioning stint. He’s been itching to get back on the ice with his teammates and is ecstatic to finally return to NHL action.

He credits the camaraderie of being able to practice and travel with the team as a big factor in ensuring his readiness to play, saying “Hockey’s my life, I love to do it. Just being around it, being able to practice and skating around with the guys, having fun. That was a huge advantage.”

To make room for Lilja’s return, the Wings had to clear some space under the salary cap. On Wednesday, the Wings announced that they were placing Kirk Maltby on the long-term injured reserve list. The veteran forward expects to have season-ending shoulder surgery next week, thus clearing enough room under the cap for Lilja’s return.

The Wings began planning for Lilja’s return earlier this month when they parted with veteran enforcer Brad May, who was put on waivers on Feb. 12. May cleared waivers and will report to the Griffins next week.

Maltby had hoped that he could postpone surgery on his right shoulder until after the season, but the chronic pain, coupled with the team’s needs, made his decision easy.

“I’ve been playing with it all year,” he said, “but now the club is getting healthier and that made [the surgery] an easier decision to do now.”

Maltby said he’s been suffering from arthritis in the ball and AC joints, along with small tears in his labrum. The expected recovery time is 4-6 weeks, which may allow him to return in time for the playoffs. The salary-cap isn’t in effect once the playoffs begin, meaning players can be added to the roster.

Lilja’s physical presence (6-3, 230-pounds) will give the blue line a boost for a team fighting for every point in the Western Conference playoff race. While he doesn’t score a lot of points (13 points in 60 games last season), it’s his steadiness as a stay-at-home defender – blocking shots and killing penalties – that the Wings sorely miss.

He plans to be the same physical player he was before his injury, saying he can’t let the psychological aspect of a head injury get to him.

“You can’t think like that,” he said. “If I’m going out there not to get hit or not to hit people, then I’m no use out there, so I might as well not play.”

Lilja’s return coupled with Niklas Kronwall’s recovery from an injured knee means the Wings will finally be playing with a fully healthy defensive group. Although Lilja doesn’t know who he’ll be partnered with on Monday, he’s excited to see the pairings that coach Mike Babcock will put together.

“It makes it better because then we’re going to have rivalry over the spots,” Lilja said. “I think that makes the team better.”


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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 PLAYOFFS
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
T. Tatar 5 0 3 1 3
M. Green 5 1 1 -1 2
A. Athanasiou 5 1 0 1 1
G. Nyquist 5 1 0 2 1
H. Zetterberg 5 1 0 3 1
J. Abdelkader 5 1 0 -3 1
B. Richards 5 1 0 -4 1
D. Helm 5 1 0 -1 1
D. Larkin 5 1 0 -2 1
N. Kronwall 5 0 1 3 1
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Mrazek 1 2 0 .945 1.36
J. Howard 0 2 0 .891 3.59