Weiss' latest ailment raises Wings' anxiety level

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — Amid this superb start to the season for the Red Wings is one lingering pocket of frustration — Stephen Weiss.

The Wings signed the veteran to a five-year, $24.5 million contract before last season with the expectation that he would be the team's No. 2 center. The return on investment thus far — 27 total games.

General manager Ken Holland said Weiss will be placed on short-term IR again on Saturday with a groin injury. The move will clear the way for the return of forward Johan Franzen on Sunday in Buffalo.

"I don't know how serious it is," Holland said. "I don't think it's overly serious, but he's not going on the road trip. We're going to send him to see two or three (doctors and therapists). It's frustrating."

Weiss missed most of last year with groin and sports hernia injuries. He had surgery in the offseason to repair the sports hernia. He's played in just one game this season and was sent to Grand Rapids on Tuesday with the idea to play in two games for the Griffins for conditioning purposes. The plan was for him to join the Wings and be in the lineup for the three-game trip through Buffalo, Ottawa and New York (Rangers) next week.

"He said after the first period (Wednesday night) that his groin was tender," Holland said. "He played the second period and it started to hurt worse. So we are back to the drawing board a little bit."

The situation is befuddling both to Holland and to the coaching staff. Weiss, who is 32, doesn't have a history of groin problems.

"He got injured so we've got to look at why," coach Mike Babcock said. "We went through it with the coaching staff. Did we skate him enough? Did he train enough? Did he do enough strength training? Did he do everything enough? Like, why did it happen?

"When you get a constant groin pull after you've had the surgery, is your body misaligned? We are getting that looked after. Is he putting too much pressure on his groin?"

Darren Helm was having a similar issue with repeated groin injuries. It turned out his body was out of line after surgery and through physical therapy the problem was corrected. The Wings are sending Weiss to be examined by the same physical therapist.

"We hope by Tuesday or Wednesday when we get back he is feeling better," Holland said. "If he starts to feel better every day, then you can say, 'Well, he's just pulled his groin.' If it gets worse, then you start to wonder if there is more to it."

The injury is only part of this issue, though. While Weiss was sitting out, a couple of young centers have stepped up and seized significant roles. Riley Sheahan is now the No. 2 center and Luke Glendening anchors both the fourth line and the penalty kill unit.

With those two, plus a healthy Helm, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, even a healthy Weiss would have a hard time cracking the lineup at center. He played left wing in the only game he played this season.

"It's pro sports," Holland said. "It's competition."

Weiss occupies $4.9 million of the Wings' salary cap for this season. If he had to go on long-term IR, his salary would come off the books. But, that is of little comfort to Holland.

"There are no players (available) now," he said. "There is nobody sitting out that's pretty darn good looking for a place to play. Those guys have been gobbled up since like July 4."

So, the Wings will do everything they can to get Weiss healthy and see how it plays out.

"Sometimes with these injuries, you just need time to go by to see how the body responds," Holland said. "People want answers. I don't have answers. The only way to get an answer is by letting days goes by."

As the rest of the players were coming off the ice after the morning skate Friday, Weiss, with a stocking cap pulled down nearly over his eyes, ducked out the side door hurriedly past the assembled media.

As much as this is frustrating for Holland and Babcock, one can only imagine his anguish.

"The biggest thing he can't do is be mental mush," Babcock said. "In other words, as big a blow as this is for you mentally, don't get down. Let's just get back at 'er and get ready to play."

Chris McCosky on Twitter @cmccosky