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Zetterberg, Pulkkinen questionable

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Daniel Cleary takes a shot during Sunday's practice at Honda Center. He could play should Henrik Zetterberg or Teemu Pulkkinen are unavailable. (Photo by Dan Mannes/Detroit Red Wings)

ANAHEIM, Calif. – The Red Wings hope Saturday’s bazaar 7-6 overtime win at Dallas isn’t as costly as it seemed at Sunday’s practice at Honda Center.

Captain Henrik Zetterberg and rookie Teemu Pulkkinen, who were both injured in the win, did not skate Sunday, and their status for Monday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks is questionable.

The team says Zetterberg has an upper-body injury, while Pulkkinen said he suffered a leg injury during the first period at American Airlines Center.

Coach Mike Babcock appeared optimistic that Zetterberg will be ready to play Monday. The Wings’ coach said he spoke to Zetterberg Sunday morning, and he seemed fine. But, just in case, Babcock took measures to prepare center Riley Sheahan for Zetterberg’s role on the second line and on the league’s top rated power play.

“We worked on our power-play breakout without him today just in case he isn’t playing,” Babcock said. “We tried to get a little bit organized anyways.”

Sheahan’s role this season has mainly been as a third-line center, but he’s certainly no stranger to the No. 2 spot, having filled the role at times last season.

If the Wings call upon Sheahan to move up he’ll welcome the challenge of more head-to-head ice time against two of the best centers in the league, Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler.

“You go through all the elements of the game and they’re skilled in all those elements,” Sheahan said of the Ducks. “They’re big, they’re fast, they have a good shot. It’ll be a challenge playing against them, but it’ll be fun.”

Babcock likes to use the ‘grab your chunk of cheese analogy, and he expects Sheahan to do that if he’s asked to play a different role against the Ducks.

“The way I look at it is you’ve got to step up,” Babcock said. “It’s opportunity knocks. Someone’s got to play against Getzy, someone’s got to play against Kesler, someone’s got to play against (Nate) Thompson, (Rickard) Rackell, whatever. Play. You don’t spend half the time worrying about it. We want Z to play every night, but if he can’t play, someone else has got to play.”

Zetterberg’s possible absence, and that of his rookie linemate, would create opportunities for other players, which is eerily similar to the adversity the team faced last season with long-term injuries to key contributors like Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Jonathan Ericsson, Johan Franzen and Darren Helm.

“Exactly like last year when those guys were out,” Tomas Tatar said, “we have to step up and fill the spot, fill the role and start to somehow find a way to win. … It’s like a ladder and we have to climb it.”

The Red Wings have 14 forwards with them in California, so Daniel Cleary and Joakim Andersson are available to jump into the lineup should Zetterberg and Pulkkinen not be ready.

It’s believed that Zetterberg’s injury occurred at 3:30 of the second period when he was involved in a shoving match with Stars’ Jamie Benn immediately following a face-off in the Red Wings’ zone. Zetterberg took a regular shift for the rest of the period, but he did not return to the game following the second intermission.

“It’s going to be a big challenge. He’s our leader,” Justin Abdelkader said. “He brings so much to the table, not just his on-ice presence. It’s an opportunity for other guys to step up. We have to come together here and find ways to win, no matter who’s in the lineup.”

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