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Z hits 900

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings
The Western Conference-leading Chicago Blackhawks play the Wings for the first time this season tonight in Detroit. Jonathan Toews, left, is third on the team in scoring while Patrick Kane, right, leads the league. (Photo by Dave Sandford)

DETROIT -- It's somehow fitting that Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk would reach the same milestone in the same season.

Datsyuk played in his 900th game 35 games ago and tonight it's Zetterberg's turn.

It's impressive considering Zetterberg was taken in the seventh round of the 1999 NHL draft, 210th overall, and Datsyuk was chosen in the sixth round of the 1998 draft, 171st overall.

"I think it’s great," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "Both of them came into the league a little bit later than a lot of guys come into the league. I’d say they’ve been impact players the whole time. I’d say the same thing about Z that I say about Pav a lot, both of them could have more points if they were players that cheated a little bit. They’ve been two of the best two-way players in the world for a long, long time. The fact they’re still doing it as two-way players is a testament to their everyday will and their everyday approach."

Zetterberg leads the team with 41 points (12 goals, 29 assists). Datsyuk is not too far behind with 36 points (13 goals, 23 assists) despite missing 15 games to start the season.

"Everyone knows what kind of player he is, unbelievable, one of the best in the league both ends of the ice, plays a 200-foot game," Gustav Nyquist said. "Just what he's meant for this organization, I think. He's our leader in this locker room. We can always count on him bringing his best every single game. He's just one of those everydayers. Just the way you watch how hard he works and how he keeps his body. He's been dealing with a lot of different injuries and stuff like that, just battled through them and really worked hard on his body and come back even stronger from them so it's impressive to see as a young guy, for sure, what he's done."

This is Brad Richards' first season playing with Zetterberg as opposed to playing against him.

"I’ve always admired Z, playing against him and Pav are two players you always keep an eye on," Richards said. "It’s a good milestone for him. He’s done a lot for this organization and it’s good to see both of them get to 900 this year with one organization, it’s pretty special."

For rookie Dylan Larkin, who grew up watching both Zetterberg and Datsyuk, playing with them is a dream come true.

"Playing with all of these guys, it’s probably one of the best things that’s happened to me in my career," Larkin said. "So it’s cool just being able to watch them and see how they are as guys, as players. It’s his 900th? That’s pretty impressive. I hope he has a few hundred more. It’s great to have him."

FINALLY, THE BLACKHAWKS: For two longtime rivals, it is the latest in the season they have ever met.

But the Chicago Blackhawks are in Detroit for Rivalry Night tonight and the Wings visit Chicago this Sunday.

"It's one of those things in the schedule when you only play each other twice, sometimes it can be the whole season before you actually get to see each other, obviously then twice within a week, so that's a little bit of a quirk within the schedule," Blashill said. "Compared to years past obviously in the West, it's certainly different. But it's always exciting to play them, it'll be an exciting time here tonight."

Nyquist remembers the 2013 playoff series which went to overtime of the seventh game.

"We had a great, great series against them, up 3-1 but unable to close it out, lose in overtime in Chicago in Game 7," Nyquist said. "Obviously got to know a lot of those players over the course of that series and a lot of those players are still there, so for sure you see some familiar faces."

The Blackhawks, who won the Stanley Cup last year, lead the Western Conference with 83 points in 64 games. Dallas and St. Louis also have 83 points but in 65 and 66 games, respectively.

"It’s a great challenge, similar to Dallas in the sense they have guys offensively who do a great job of transitioning from D-zone to offense," Blashill said. "They a great job of making something out of nothing and both have extremely talented offensive players. Chicago’s obviously done a real good job over the past six years with what they’ve accomplished in the playoffs. They’re a very well-rounded two-way team as well. It’ll be a great opportunity again for us to measure ourselves."

The Blackhawks have a goal differential of plus-27 second only to Washington's plus-61.

"It's been a long time since we played them," Jonathan Ericsson said. "I really like these games, they're always fun to play."

For Brad Richards, it will be a little strange as he was with the Blackhawks last season.

"I think it will be a lot different going to Chicago but fun to play them tonight," Richards said. "Haven’t seen them since … really haven’t talked to many people face to face since we win. Visited a little bit with the staff this morning, the trainers and stuff, so it was fun to catch up. Obviously will be a little different seeing some of the guys you won with a year later but it’s part of the business now."

LARKIN FAN OF KANE, KANE FAN OF DATSYUK: Patrick Kane leads the league in scoring with 85 points (36 goals, 49 assists) in 64 games.

Larkin said after the morning skate that he's always been a fan of Kane.

"I liked how he came through the NDP and he went to the OHL," Larkin said. "Was a great player and obviously has been a great player for Chicago and Team USA as well. So I was a Patrick Kane fan and anytime Chicago was in the Stanley Cup I was pulling for them but never against Detroit."

Kane said he had no idea that Larkin was an admirer of his.

"It's obviously pretty exciting to hear," Kane said. "I guess that means I'm getting a little bit older now. I think it's amazing the way these American players are coming up and what they're bringing to the game. You look at guys like (Jack) Eichel and Larkin, it's pretty special the way they can skate and how they're having an impact on the game at such a young age, it's pretty amazing, too. USA Hockey is in good hands."

Larkin briefly met Kane when the two played in the All-Star Game in Nashville.

"You obviously saw how fast he was in the fastest skater and how good he was in the three on three tournament, too," Kane said. "I think you watch some of these young guys you're just kind of amazed at the way they can impact a team right away. I know he's leading the team in goals. He's a pretty special player and I'm sure he'll be doing some special things for a long time."

Kane said he actually liked one of the Wings as he was growing up.

"I was a huge fan of Datsyuk growing up, just the way he could handle the puck, some of the things he did on the ice and some of the things he would even try on the ice, it was just like something that you'd never seen before," Kane said. "They call him the Magic Man for a reason and he's still to this day one of my favorite players to watch."

MRAZEK BACK: Goaltender Petr Mrazek, who missed Monday's game in Dallas with a tender groin, said he's fine and ready to play.

Blashill said Mrazek would start against the Blackhawks, his first career outing against Chicago.

With Mrazek's return, the Wings returned Jared Coreau to the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins following the morning skate.

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