The injuries are bad enough, but getting the guys up and running again makes it all the worse.

How quickly the Red Wings who are returning from injuries regain their top form will be one of the key factors determining how far the team will last this season.

With four teams at 80 points fighting for the two wild-card slots in the Eastern Conference, the question hovers over the Wings, especially in regards to Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk.

Coach Mike Babcock found some offense Thursday night, tinkering with the lines populated by recent returnees.

But offense has been an ongoing problem. Over the last several games it has come mostly from one line: Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and Riley Sheahan.

A playoff spot will likely require at least one more productive line. Success in the playoffs would likely require contributions from all four.

Working back into shape

“We score less than anybody, I think, in hockey, this last little while,” Babcock said. “All we do is check. The other team has the puck about 66 percent of the time, and we just check like crazy.”

With their place in the standings, the Wings have no time for players to “work their way back in.”

Darren Helm, the consummate spark plug who returned four games ago, has yet to fully reignite.

But Thursday he was united with Johan Franzen and Nyquist in the Red Wings’ 5-4 loss to the Canadiens. They accounted for the fourth goal might be together again Saturday in Toronto.

No blame should be assessed for players playing their way back into shape. In the NHL, they talk about returning to speed after an injury, especially concussions and leg injuries that prevent skating during during the recovery period. It is difficult to simulate game speed in practice.

“The big thing is, you get them back but they’re good for one game, and then it takes about three games to get their conditioning up to speed,” Babcock said.