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Zetterberg's optimistic for playoff return

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

For the first time since undergoing back surgery last month, Henrik Zetterberg spoken about the pain he experienced in Russia, and his desire to return to the ice for the playoffs.

DETROIT – For the first time since undergoing season-ending surgery last month, Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said he’s feeling great and remains hopefully that he’ll still play hockey this spring.

“That’s the goal. I want to play hockey again this year,” Zetterberg said. “Obviously, that would be sometime in the playoffs.

“I’ve been moving a lot more the last two weeks. Just got to take it step by step, and so far no hiccups. Just got to stay that way.”

Zetterberg’s surgery was needed to alleviate the excruciating sciatic pain that he was experiencing when a herniated disk pinched a nerve in his lower back.

Throughout the past three or four seasons, the Red Wings’ superstar has had to manage a degenerative disk in his lumbar spine, one that has forced him to miss significant stretches before, including 11 games in December.

Even though he has missed 27 games, Zetterberg still leads the Red Wings in points (48), plus/minus rating (19) and shots on goal (151).

“When I first saw the doc in the beginning of December it was not a surgical case,” Zetterberg said. “We did the rehab, we went through all that. We knew there was a chance down the road maybe we would have to go in and do something. In December I went through the rehab, I felt good, came back playing and felt good. Going into Olympics I felt great, excited to go. Played that game, felt fine there and woke up next day and different feeling.”

Named Sweden’s team captain, Zetterberg went to Sochi and played in Sweden’s opener, a 4-2 win over the Czech Republic. He even scored the game-winner for the Swedes, who went on to win a silver medal in the tournament.

But the next morning, the indescribable pain reached a level unfamiliar to Zetterberg, who couldn’t get out of bed. He remained in Russia for nine more days before catching the NHL charter back to New York. He had the surgery on Feb. 21.

Gustav Nyquist, who was Zetterberg’s roommate in the Olympic Village, said it was difficult to watch his teammate and friend in so much pain.

“It’s not fun to see. He was really hurting,” Nyquist said. “To see how frustrated he was, it’s tough to see when a guy is hurting that bad. But it’s nice to see that he’s back on his feet and walking around down here. He looks to be in pretty good shape.”

Fortunately, Zetterberg has a support group consisting of teammates like Todd Bertuzzi, Kyle Quincey and Daniel Sedin, who have all undergone similar back procedures.

“When I was lying there in Russia, I knew what Bert went through,” Zetterberg said. “The tough part was not being able to fly home. I think it took so long before I felt good enough to leave the village and take myself to a plane.

“When you end up in situations like this, you realize a lot of other guys went through it. Daniel Sedin went through it last year and we talked a lot over in Sochi. There's other players that went through the same surgery I did. It has helped. If I have any questions, I know who to call.”

Almost immediately after the surgery, the pain that had traveled down the back of his left leg had subsided.

“It started right after surgery, the sensation and pain I had when I was over in Russia went away when I woke up from surgery, so that was a big relief,” Zetterberg said. “Then after surgery obviously it was stiff and tight and sore from the surgery but that kind of turned around after the Nick (Lidstrom) night here. I think after that was when I started doing some rehab stuff and it went away pretty fast.”

This Friday marks five weeks since he had the surgery, and Zetterberg said doctors have given him an eight-week timetable before he can begin to think about skating again.

“I think that’s around April 18-19, eight weeks from surgery,” he said, “and then we got to see where I am.”

As for the Red Wings’ drive toward a 23rd consecutive postseason appearance, Zetterberg likes his team’s chances.

“The guys who came up from Grand Rapids and other additions that we had have played really well, and if it wasn't for all the injuries we've had this year we wouldn't have seen all those guys,” he said. “We wouldn't have known what we had in the system, so just got to get through this, get into the playoffs and then we can have some fun.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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