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Herniated disc sidelines Wings' captain

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Henrik Zetterberg has been the Red Wings' leading scorer this season, producing 11 goals and 19 assists in all 28 games. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT – As if being without their second-leading scorer wasn’t bad enough; the Red Wings learned Tuesday that their leading scorer will be out of the lineup for at least two weeks.

Lower back pain is something captain Henrik Zetterberg has lived with throughout his NHL career, but the herniated disc that will keep him off of the ice for the next fortnight is an all together different then the disc that forced him to miss significant time during the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons.

“It’s similar spot, not the same disc,” said a somber Zetterberg as he spoke to the media Tuesday. “Hopefully I’ll be back sooner than last time. The thing is we just have to see. We’re going to take a couple of weeks here and then come back and evaluate it again and see if it’s going the right way.”

Zetterberg has been enjoying a spectacular season, producing 11 goals and 30 points in all 28 games for the Red Wings. He’s currently tied for fourth in league points with Chicago’s Patrick Kane and the New York Islanders John Tavares.

The Red Wings have also been without Pavel Datsyuk for the last four games and he’s not expected to play Wednesday when the club hosts the Philadelphia Flyers at Joe Louis Arena. Fortunately, the Wings have mustered a 4-0-0 record without Datsyuk, who has concussion-like symptoms from a hit to the head by Ottawa’s Jared Cowen on Nov. 23.

Datsyuk has registered 12 goals and 23 points in 24 games this season, and despite missing four games, he still leads the league with 40 takeaways.

It’s believed to be the first time in their careers that the Red Wings will be without both of the Euro Twins concurrently.

“It affects us, they’re good players, but other players are good players, too, so if you haven’t liked your share of the pie, grab some,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We’re a team, it’s a team sport. Are those guys important? No question. (Danny) DeKeyser’s a star for us as well. Those are three important pieces. We don’t have them. What are we going to do about it? Let’s get ready to play tomorrow. Philly doesn’t care if they’re playing or not.”

For years, Zetterberg has taken increased measures to protect the discs in his lower back through exercises meant to strength his core and stabilize the lumbar region. Now it’s a matter of rest to cool down the inflamed nerve.

“Once you have issues with your back you always will and you learn to live with it and play with it,” Zetterberg.said. “But at the same time you know when it’s worse than normal. That’s how it is right now.

“Sitting is the worst. I think anyone with back issues knows that.”

The pain resurfaced last week, Zetterberg said, but he managed to play through it before it became intolerable and he went for an MRI on Monday.

“It’s tough to say when it actually happened,” Zetterberg said. “Had we gone in and taken an MRI before the Islanders game then maybe. I’ve been playing with my back for many years now so it comes and goes. In the Ottawa game I felt a little bit worse than it should be and that’s when we went in and had a look and found something.

“We’re going through all the proper steps here. I’ve been through this before so maybe I’m a little bit calmer now than when it happened last time. I’ve just got to put the trust in the docs and do the right stuff here.”

Typically, when a team is without it’s two best offensive weapons problems can arise, but the Wings’ captain is confident in the direction that the team has taken in the last two weeks.

“I think we’ve got a good feel in our group,” Zetterberg said. “We’re more calm on the ice, making better decisions and everyone is contributing and playing well. We’re getting goal scoring from everyone. If we keep doing that we’ll be fine.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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