After missing the final five games of the regular season with an upper-body injury believed to be a shoulder issue, Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall returned to action in Game 1 and played a big role in the Red Wings' 4-2 win.
Not only did he log 21:21 of ice time -- second only to Brad Stuart's 23:25 -- but Kronwall spent 6:04 on the ice killing off Phoenix power plays. That was about two-thirds of Phoenix's 9:09 of man-advantage time and the Wings didn't allow a single power-play goal.
Kronwall also blocked two shots, which he didn't have to think twice about doing despite his injury.
"You don't really think about it," he said. "All you want to try to do is prevent that puck from going through. It's just as simple as that. You want to try to block as many shots as you can."
The Red Wings talked a lot about how they just knew Johan Franzen would show up big in the playoffs, and then the Swedish power forward known as "The Mule" proved them right in Game 1.
His rocket wrist shot through the legs of a defenseman and past a stunned Ilya Bryzgalov was the highlight, but he also added an assist on Detroit's first goal, logged five shots on goal, missed the net five times and dished out four hits.
He even blocked a shot and won the only faceoff he took. All that after being somewhat invisible during the final 27 games he played in the regular season -- a span in which Detroit’s leading goal scorer potted just 2 goals.
The performance wasn't exactly "ho-hum" for his teammates to see, but close.
"He's been happier the last few days," forward Danny Cleary said on Thursday. "He just hates the regular season, I think. When he's going, he's very hard to stop. He gets on this roll of just complete dominance, physical and skating. He can be so powerful, with and without the puck, and his shot is lethal. So it just continued on, him playing well in the postseason."
DETROIT -- Any progress is good for injured Detroit Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg, and what the star did on the ice at Joe Louis Arena Thursday morning qualified as such.
Two days earlier, Zetterberg met with reporters after Detroit's practice and didn't sound upbeat about the prospect of getting back in time from an undisclosed lower-body injury to play in this Western Conference quarterfinal series against the Phoenix Coyotes.
Now, he's at least one step closer to making it happen after skating by himself on Thursday morning and taking part in light stickhandling and shooting activities. It was the first time on the ice for Zetterberg since he was injured in Carolina in an April 6 game.
"I was out there for 15 minutes, maybe," said Zetterberg, who missed the final two games of the regular season and Wednesday night's 4-2 Red Wings win in Game 1 with what's believed to be a knee injury. "It was fun to be out there (and) feel the puck again. I didn't expect that a few days ago, even though I didn't do, basically, anything out there -- just stickhandling, shooting and moving around a little bit."
Zetterberg, who was driven by golf cart to the Red Wings' locker room while wearing a bulky brace on his leg Tuesday, still played it cautious on Thursday when asked about the prospect of playing in Game 2 on Saturday after noon.
"Day by day," he said. "We'll see (how it feels Thursday)."
As for skating again on Friday, that will be determined by how his body reacts to the work he put in on Thursday.
"We'll see how it reacts after today," said Zetterberg, Detroit's leading point-scorer in the regular season. "It bumped up a little bit in the workout room today, too. (We) just have to see how it will respond and regroup tomorrow."
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock also left the door ajar as to Zetterberg's return timetable.
"There's always a chance," Babcock said, when asked about the Swedish star's availability for Game 2. "He's day-to-day."
The series opener was a game they'd like to forget, but instead the Coyotes will likely spend the next two days talking to reporters about what went wrong and how to fix it.
Center Andrew Ebbett hopes the experience is inspirational before Phoenix and Detroit meet again on Saturday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena (1 p.m. ET) for Game 2.
"We've got that two-day break, so we've got to sit on it for two days," Ebbett said. "Hopefully that will light a fire under a few guys here and we'll be ready for Saturday afternoon. We've been a road team all year, so we're a confident bunch in here. We feel like we let one slip away tonight."
Detroit forward Johan Franzen struggled to score goals through 27 games after he scored five in one game on Feb. 2 against the Ottawa Senators.
The playoffs are a different story.
Franzen has now played 76 playoff games -- nearly a full regular-season equivalent of games -- and added to his numbers with a goal and assist. He now has 36 goals and 70 points in the playoffs with a plus-38 rating.
"You always have something to play for, but it's not the same," he said of the regular season. "We win the games we need to pretty much, but I think lots of guys have been waiting for this night."
It was the kind of loss that could really damage a team's psyche, but the Phoenix Coyotes say they won't let that happen after Wednesday night's 4-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.
After getting out to a lead just 2:16 into the game on Kyle Turris' first career playoff goal, Phoenix squandered six power plays over the course of the game and couldn't increase the lead despite getting five man-advantage situations in the game's first 25 minutes.
That included a 5-on-3 in the first period for nearly 1:30 which wound up getting the pro-Detroit crowd whipped into a frenzy.
"We had chances and we had shots," Turris said. "It's just something to work on over the next couple days. Come back next game with the same idea -- lots of shots, lots of screens and hopefully get a bounce or two."
Turris said that despite being down by two in the third after Radim Vrbata scored 7:38 into the period, the Coyotes never gave up -- which he found encouraging for Game 2 on Saturday.
"Even when we were down 4-2 in the third, we were all energetic and ready to come back," Turris said. "It's one game in a seven-game series and we're excited to start Game 2 here."
It's becoming cliche to talk about how old and tired the Detroit Red Wings are now, but that's still one of the biggest concerns people have about them competing for the Stanley Cup.
According to 40-year old all-star defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, reports of his aging team's demise are being greatly exaggerated -- as evidenced by a 4-2 win on Wednesday night against the Phoenix Coyotes to open their Western Conference quarterfinal series.
Detroit dominated special teams play with both the man advantage (1-for-3) and killing penalties (6-for-6) and it led to a win despite being outplayed in the game's first 25 minutes.
"We look at the playoffs as being a fresh start," Lidstrom said. "It starts from scratch. That's how we look at it. It's the same for the power play and penalty killing. You start from scratch. You want a good start and we got it."
Coyotes coach Dave Tippett was asked on Wednesday how the Red Wings not having star forward Henrik Zetterberg (lower body) for Game 1 changes the approach to defending Detroit -- if at all.
He pointed to the Red Wings' scoring depth -- seven players other than Zetterberg with more than 15 goals scored -- and said the 'Yotes can't relax just because one star is missing.
"They have some pretty good players even though Zetterberg's out," Tippett said. "If we think we're going to have it any easier, we're wrong. Zetterberg is an excellent player. That goes without saying. But they have good depth on their club. They're still a very good team."
Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said veteran defenseman Derek Morris would miss the quarterfinal series opener against Detroit on Wednesday night with an upper body injury and is day-to-day for a return.
Morris, who had five goals and 16 points in 77 games, spent a lot of time on the blue line with Keith Yandle this season. That means Tippett will be forced to find a comparable partner to pair with his offensive star in the top pairing.
You forget how good [Nieuwendyk] was. You hear the points and stuff and you almost forget until they kind of walk you through his career, and that was really cool for me. I might have felt it a little more than some of the other guys because he was one of my favorites growing up, but that was very cool and I'm honored to have been a part of it. I had chills the entire ceremony.
— Calgary's Joe Colborne on the "Forever a Flame" ceremony for Joe Nieuwendyk