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Red Wings Hopeful Zetterberg Will Return for Game 4 vs. Boston

by Jess Isner / Boston Bruins

BostonBruins.com — After losing two straight games and going down 2-1 in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series against the Bruins, the Red Wings need a spark.

And they’re hoping to get it in the form of Henrik Zetterberg.

The captain participated in a full practice on Wednesday in Detroit and was on the ice for Thursday’s pregame skate, and though Head Coach Mike Babcock said he will be a game-time decision, he is hopeful.

“Z told me when I asked him this morning, he said he’s going to the doctor, but because we were even talking about it, I put him on a line and I put him on the power play,” Babcock said during his post-skate press conference. “The doctors decide, not me, so I’m hopeful, but who knows? We’ll know at game time.”

“I think he’s pretty competitive. He’s been working at it. Obviously, when you have back surgery, they don’t let you come back early, so the doctors and him have had a plan and he’s been working on it. … You don’t practice very much [in the playoffs], but with all the optional skates and stuff like that, he feels like he’s close. So that’s why he’s going to see the doctor.”

Zetterberg has been off the ice since suffering a back injury in his first game of the Olympics and underwent back surgery after returning from Sochi, but given his leadership -- on top of his playmaking ability — the Red Wings expect his mere presence to have an impact. 

“He’s emotionally involved, on the ice and off the ice,” said forward Gustav Nyquist. “His leadership in here — he’s one of the best players in the world. He’s our captain, and obviously it would be a big boost to us to have him back.”

Added defenseman Brendan Smith, “Any time you can get your captain back, it’s huge. He’s a big driving force of our squad, and he’s a leader on and off the ice, so it’s somebody that is huge to have back. I’ve been [talking] about how he’s one of the best two-way centers. He helps in the defensive zone as well as the offensive zone. He’s going to help us put more offensive time in, and he’s got a great shot, so you look at Z as the package player.”

“To get a guy back like that is huge, so it’s going to help our squad in all three zones of the ice.”

If the Detroit faithful do see Zetterberg on the ice for Thursday’s game at Joe Louis Arena, Smith expects them to “erupt.”

“He’s a fan favorite,” he said. “They’re definitely going to erupt, and they should — I erupt when I see him on the ice, so imagine what fans are like. He’s a fan favorite, he’s well-spoken, he’s humble and he’s arguably one of the best players. So it’s going to be cool. It’s going to be good for everybody.”

The Red Wings have scored just two goals in three games against the Bruins, and they have been notoriously ineffective on the power play. While they are hoping Zetterberg will be able to provide a boost in those areas, they know that just having him around as a veteran presence, if nothing else, will make a difference.

“I can expect him to be provide great leadership, both in the room and on the bench,” Babcock said. “If we get nothing else, that’s good enough.”

Bertuzzi In

Veteran forward Todd Bertuzzi has not be in the lineup for the first three games of this series, but after he took rushes with Riley Sheahan and Tomas Tatar during Thursday’s skate, he is expected to make his series debut for Game 4.

Tomas Jurco and Joakim Andersson are expected to be the healthy scratches.

“[The playoffs are] a completely different season than the regular season, which I think is fun,” Bertuzzi said. “The city’s involved, and especially being a little bit older, you appreciate it a little bit more.”

While the impact of his debut may be suffering in the wake of Zetterberg’s potential return, Bertuzzi is happy to see the captain on the cusp of making his debut as well.

“I think he’s overshadowing me a little bit,” he said with a smile, “but listen: Z’s captain for a reason. He carries the torch around here, and he leads by example, and obviously, the guys have done a great job while he’s been out, but obviously it’s a huge hole when he’s not in the lineup.”

With Bertuzzi's help, Sheahan would like to see his line make the kind of impact it was accustomed to making leading up to the playoffs, when it provided the offensive punch Detroit needed to get into the postseason.

“Obviously, we had some success, and we’d like to continue with that,” Sheahan said. “Right now, we’re just going to focus on what we can do to help, and find what we can do as a line to contribute. So it will be a big game for us.”

Babcock expects the physical presence of the 6-foot-3, 229-pound Bertuzzi to positively impact his linemates, who don’t boast much playoff experience. Last game, Sheahan and Tatar skated with Gustav Nyquist, and the line switches for Game 4 mean that Jurco will likely be scratched. Jurco provides some much-needed speed, so the decision to leave him out was not an easy one, but it is what Babcock is going with.

“Three kids playing together — it wasn’t going as good as I would have liked to have,” Babcock said. “I didn’t think we spent enough time in the offensive zone with that group, and I’m hoping maybe one veteran player can help them out.”

“In saying that, we’re taking out Jurco, who’s got great speed and plays real well. Why would you do that? That’s a great question I asked myself that 100 times yesterday, and just when I was starting to fall asleep, I started thinking about it again, and so then I didn’t sleep well. I don’t know. I’m trying to do the right thing.”

Babcock also provided an update on the status of Daniel Alfredsson, who has not skated since Game 2 on Sunday in Boston.

“Alfredsson is feeling better today, and the trainers told me he should be ready to go by Saturday,” he said. “Could you throw him in the game? Probably. He hasn’t practiced in a while. We don’t really know. We’re trying to put the best lineup we can on the ice.”

Offense vs. Defense

Much has been made of Detroit’s offensive impact through the first three games of this series — or the lack thereof — but Babcock said he is more concerned about his team’s defensive effort.

He liked what he saw out of his back end during Game 1, a 1-0 Red Wings victory at TD Garden. He said he needs to see more of that defense-first approach from his team if it hopes to head back to Boston with a 2-2 series in hand.

“It’s interesting — you’re talking about scoring goals, but to me, the things they did better than us — they played better defense than us,” Babcock said. “They kept us on the outside. They were quicker. We talk about being quicker than them — they were quicker than us last game, for sure. They were harder and more detailed to play against. We weren’t any of those things.”

“We need to be good defensively. If we’re good defensively, we’ll have the puck way more than we [did] last game. Last game, we lost 3-0. We were random on our sort-outs. We weren’t hard to play against.”

“If you don’t play well without it, you don’t have it very much. You don’t get to play with it.”

That being said, Babcock would like to see more out of veteran winger Johan Franzen, who has been known for amping up his game come playoff time but has been quiet of late, registering just eight points and a minus-5 rating in his last 21 games.

“We need him to be a force,” Babcock said. “We need him to get on the inside and compete for space net-front and be a factor. It’s interesting — each and every year, when you go through these as a scorer, you can often be kept off the score sheet for a period of time, and sometimes, the role players pick you up and then you get going.”

“But you got to play a long time in the playoffs for other people to be able to pick you up. Otherwise, you got to get started on time, and sometimes, for us, let’s face it: We counted on our kids to get us in. We really counted on them to score, and we need some other guys to help them out right now while they find their way.”

Whether it comes from the veterans or the young guns, the Red Wings all know that they need a pick-up from someone right now.

“I don’t think you can just point your finger at age, or at one category — offense, defense, goaltending,” Smith said. “I don’t think you can point at anybody. You point at the team, and it’s a team game, and the thing about hockey is that you feed off each other and momentum swings and stuff like that.”

“That’s something that we have to create even [more] as a squad, and [Zetterberg’s] going to help for sure, [possibly] coming into the lineup. But we can’t just be sitting back and watching Z. We got to play our game and contribute and play well in that sense. So that’s something that we want to do. We want to get more momentum swings on our side so that we end up winning this game.”

Red Wings Projected Lineup for Game 4 vs. Boston

Forwards:

Henrik Zetterberg — Pavel Datsyuk — Justin Abdelkader

Johan Franzen — Darren Helm — Gustav Nyquist

Tomas Tatar — Riley Sheahan — Todd Bertuzzi

Drew Miller — Luke Glendening — David Legwand

Defensemen:

Niklas Kronwall — Brendan Smith

Kyle Quincey — Danny DeKeyser

Brian Lashoff — Jakub Kindl

Goaltender:

Jimmy Howard

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