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Brad Richards to return on Friday; Athanasiou goes back to Grand Rapids

One of the key signings in the off-season, Brad Richards, is ready to make his return to the ice for the Detroit Red Wings. Richards has been out of the lineup since October 21 with lower back pain.

In a corresponding roster move, Andreas Athanasiou was reassigned to the Grand Rapids Griffins. In his six games with Detroit, he registered just one goal, but provided the team with a very necessary speed element.

Richards, who has two points in his six games with Detroit (two assists), is expected to play on the left wing on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Teemu Pulkkinen.

“If you look at his history, his points per game are great and he’s got a great stick, he’s got a great offensive mind, so hopefully that combination (will work) with him and all the things Pavel can do and Pulkkinen has a lot of ability,” head coach Jeff Blashill told MLive.com in an interview. “But the other thing Pulkkinen is doing right now and the reason he’s there is he’s providing energy. He’s on the puck, he’s skating hard on the track. So I think that will help those two, having a guy with that type of energy. (Pulkkinen) is doing as good a job of it, him and (Dylan) Larkin, as anybody, so I want to get Pulkky more minutes that way, too.”

After the longest injury lay-off of his career, Richards is more than ready to get back on the ice.

“The longest time I’ve ever been out was at the end of the season. This is my longest layoff in my career,” he said. “I just like playing with good hockey players. If I play with Pav, that will make things easier. He’s a smart player, obviously.”

Blashill also announced that Brendan Smith will return to the lineup on Friday. Smith has been out for the last week while fighting flu-like symptoms. Indications are that Jakub Kindl will be held out of the lineup.

Petr Mrazek will get his second consecutive start on Friday, when the Los Angeles Kings pay a visit to the Joe, while Jimmy Howard will start on Saturday in St. Louis.

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