Eight days after signing what may be his last NHL contract, Henrik Zetterberg
says he feels no extra burden or weight now that he's got a 12-year deal in the bag.
"I have the same role I had a week ago or two weeks ago," said Zetterberg, who signed his huge contract Jan. 28. "Of course it's a lot of pressure out here playing in Detroit. The bar is real high. That's the way it is supposed to be. The expectations are real high and inside the locker room, too. We like it that way. If we lose a game we get real pissed."
Zetterberg, in fact, likes it so much in Detroit that waiting until July 1 to test the open market did not entice him at all. It was never part of his plan.
"I made my decision a long time ago," he said. "I told my agent, Marc Levine, 'I want to stay. You don't have to tell (Red Wings GM) Ken (Holland) that right away, but I want to stay so just find a way.' They have been really good to me, taking care of me, and I didn't see any reason to go to the open market because I didn't want to go anywhere else."
Zetterberg has played just one game since signing his contract. He missed three straight with back spasms before returning Wednesday for the Red Wings' 5-4 win against the Phoenix Coyotes
. He scored his 18th goal of the season in the second period.
He said he felt good, which means he should be raring to go this weekend.
The Red Wings host Edmonton on Saturday night before traveling to Pittsburgh for the NHL on NBC game Sunday afternoon at 12:30 ET. It will be Detroit's first visit to Mellon Arena since June 4, 2008, when they barely held on for a 3-2 victory in Game 6 to clinch their fourth Stanley Cup championship in 11 years.
For Zetterberg, who was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy that night, it was his first Stanley Cup. He vividly remembers the final few seconds, when the Penguins were scrambling for a goal and Marian Hossa
, now his teammate in Detroit, nearly tied it up as the puck skidded across the goal mouth as time expired.
"A few seconds and a few inches they would have tied it up in Game 6," Zetterberg said. "The last seven or so seconds really stand out for me."
Although the Wings' roster, with the addition of Hossa, looks even better now than it did in June, they haven't quite found the same mojo they had eight months ago.
Holland called it a focus problem stemming from a Stanley Cup hangover. Zetterberg, who is going through it for the first time, agrees.
"A few games we have been down a few goals right away and it's tough to win games that way," he said. "That's the biggest issue we have this year, just to be ready from the start."
"We're second in the West," he later added. "I think we have been playing OK. A few games maybe we could play a little bit better, but we have a few things that we sure can do better. We're working on it. With 30-some games before the playoffs starts we're going to get ourselves ready for a good run again."
It can start this weekend, because although the Wings have won back-to-back games this week, they haven't really put together a 60-minute effort to be proud of since Jan. 15, when they beat Los Angeles, 4-0, at Staples Center.
"You can't just turn it on," said Zetterberg. "You have to prepare yourself and you do that in the games before the playoffs start. After the All-Star break it gets tighter and tighter in the standings. The games get more intense. I think you automatically prepare yourself for the playoffs because the games become like playoff games."
Contact Dan Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org.