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March 29, 2004 - Draper pestering Lewis to return
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Draper pestering Lewis to return

March 29, 2004

BY MARK SNYDER
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER

Kris Draper admitted Sunday that begging was part of his plan.

TONIGHT: WILD
Face-off: Minnesota vs. Red Wings, 7, Joe Louis Arena.

TV/radio: Fox Sports Net, ESPN2; WXYT-AM (1270), WTKA-AM (1050).

Injuries: Detroit -- F Mark Mowers (foot), probable. C Kris Draper (shoulder), doubtful. D Mathieu Dandenault (foot), G Curtis Joseph (ankle), D Niklas Kronwall (leg), C Robert Lang (rib), D Jason Woolley (back), out. Minnesota -- D Filip Kuba (finger), out.

Overview: After consecutive wins over Colorado, the Wings could be primed for a letdown. Though none of the injured Wings likely will return tonight, coach Dave Lewis is still trying to analyze his line combinations while still trying to capture the Western Conference and home-ice advantage until the Stanley Cup Finals.

Yet Red Wings coach Dave Lewis isn't likely to be swayed by the forward's charms.

Draper, who suffered a partially torn left rotator cuff March 3, has been cleared by doctors to resume practicing and playing.

But the decision remains with Lewis, who Draper has spent most of the past few days harassing in the hope that he could return tonight against Minnesota.

"I'm still lobbying for Monday, but I don't think I'm going to get my way," Draper said after Sunday's practice, when he and injured forward Robert Lang (rib) practiced on the same line. "They want me to play two of the last four (regular-season games), and I'm trying to get three of the last four. I'll probably ease into it. I'm sure the trainers and doctors have talked to Lewie about what they want to do, and I'm just going to try to get the most out of it."

When he suffered the injury -- his stick caught goaltender Curtis Joseph's mask during a pregame skate -- Draper figured a return for the playoffs was likely.

So when he got the news he could play sooner, he was thrilled.

"Otherwise it would have been pretty much five weeks since I had played, and then to jump right into the playoffs wouldn't have been easy to do," he said.

Though Lewis realizes Draper was having an outstanding season with 24 goals and 16 assists, he is in no rush.

"If he can get in the lineup," Lewis joked. "Talking to him and the doctors, it looks like realistically Wednesday (at Columbus) is going to be the day."

While Draper's return will provide more offense, he's just the next one to return to a team that has been dealing with injuries all season.

Lewis said he hopes Lang will be ready by midweek. Mathieu Dandenault didn't skate with the team and might not return until the season finale Saturday at home against Columbus.

Forward Mark Mowers, who blocked a shot with his foot Saturday against Colorado, did not practice and received treatment. Lewis said, "if he can get a skate on," he'll play tonight.