Zetterberg returned to the Red Wings' lineup Thursday for the first time since Feb. 8. He was greeted by a loud cheer when he stepped on the ice for warmups and provided an emotional lift to his team. But as the game wore on he, like the Red Wings, started to drag.
SOG: 1 | +/-: 1
"I think I felt good in the first, halfway through the second, and then I started having really short shifts," Zetterberg said. "That's the way it is. I have to have this first game and hopefully it gets better and better."
Zetterberg was an immediate factor for the Red Wings, setting up two scoring chances with crisp, hard passes. He didn't shy away from the physical stuff, even engaging in a hit on Bruins captain Zdeno Chara in the first period.
He played 29 shifts totaling 19:34 of ice time and was a plus-1 with one shot on goal, three shot attempts and two hits.
Zetterberg was on the ice for both of Detroit's goals, and contributed in the sequence that led to Pavel Datsyuk's goal that gave the Red Wings a 2-0 lead at 4:27 of the second period.
"I thought he was awesome," said Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who scored Detroit's first goal 11 minutes into the first period. "He gives us an element that of course we don't have without him. He's our captain, he's our leader for a reason. I thought he was great out there."
The Red Wings expected Zetterberg to be a notch or two below his normal level of effectiveness, but Kronwall said it didn't matter.
"He's been out for two months and I still thought he was one of our best players," Kronwall said. "That says a lot about him as a player and as a person."
Zetterberg was harder on himself.
"I played a lot better before," he said.
He's hoping to play a lot better on Saturday. He's also hoping it's not his last game of the season.
Zetterberg is just getting started again.