Red Wings are deeper and stronger with return of Henrik Zetterberg

Apr 27 2011 - 4:55pm

DETROIT -- Pavel Datsyuk sees a change in Red Wings teammate Henrik Zetterberg, one he isn't sure he's keen on.

"I don't know if he completely back, because he too much shooting," Datsyuk said, smiling. "I don't know why. Usually he doesn't too much shoot. Now he too much shoots."

This is a little bit like Zetterberg accusing Datsyuk of making too many dazzling passes, because of the many things Zetterberg does, shooting is very definitely one of them. He racked up 306 shots on net in 80 games this season, and had at least one shot in all but one of those games.

The Wings did fine in their first-round series against Phoenix without Zetterberg, but as they embark on Round 2, they're so much better because he will be back.

"He's just a real good high-end player that gives you more depth," coach Mike Babcock said. "As it goes on, you need more depth to win. The teams that advance, they advance for a reason. They're good teams that have good depth.

"Z's a high-end player who plays with great will at playoff time. He scores better at playoff time than he does in the regular season. He competes at a high, high level and it's important to have him back."

Zetterberg's return is all the more timely given Johan Franzen has been dealing with an ankle injury that may delay his availability.

The Wings can play Zetterberg and Datsyuk together at home, as often happens, and separate them for the road part of the series, making it harder for the opponent to match up. Datsyuk can form one powerful line with Tomas Holmstrom on one wing and Franzen (or Mike Modano) on the other, while Zetterberg can go back to centering Danny Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi.

However the lines shake out, having Zetterberg on one of them is going to make the Wings that much better at both ends of the ice.

"I think we showed in the first round that we have really good depth, we had scoring from all lines," Niklas Kronwall said. "But now it's going to be even tougher for the next team, and that's great for us.

"I mean, let's just face it, Z's one of the top three, top five, players in the league both offensively and defensively at the same time. Playing without a guy like that is something you don't want to do, but we did it and we were fortunate enough to come out of Phoenix. But we're very happy to have him back."

Zetterberg hasn't played since getting hurt April 6 at Carolina when he was hit by Bryan Allen. The injury didn't worry Zetterberg -- not long-term anyway -- as he limped off, but as is often the case with knee injuries, the extent of the damage becomes clearer later.

Zetterberg missed the last two games of the regular season and then had to endure watching when the playoffs began.

"It is tough," he said. "You want to be out there at playoffs. Just sitting there, it was nice it only went four games. You'd rather be out playing games than be injured. It definitely helped that they swept Phoenix and we got this extra week to be on the ice and get back into shape."

Zetterberg said he's feeling good on the ice, and really at this point all that's left is getting his timing back, which should happen fairly quickly. He's adjusted to wearing a brace, but as he pointed out, "half the league" does that now.

Few in the league, though, shoot like Zetterberg does. He finished top five among all NHL players in shots, and on balance, Datsyuk would, naturally, love to be reunited with his fellow superstar.

"We want to play together, but if it's better for team we play separate, we do that," Datsyuk said. "It's good he be back. He is important for us. He play well this season, now he have a little bit rest, he come back, he be big help for us."


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