DETROIT - The Red Wings are about to get their captain back, and not a moment too soon.Follow @SlamSports
Veteran Swedish superstar Henrik Zetterberg, who hasn’t played since the Sochi Olympics, was a full participant in Thursday’s morning skate and has been removed from long-term injured reserve.
While he is officially a game-time decision, it is clear that the Wings expect him back in the lineup here Thursday night for Game 4 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal with the Boston Bruins.
So what does Red Wings coach Mike Babcock expect from Zetterberg in the likely event that he returns?
“I can expect him provide great leadership both in the room and on the bench,” Babcock said following his team’s morning skate. “If we get nothing else, that’s good enough.”
MIKE ZEISBERGER BREAKS DOWN ALL 16 PLAYOFF TEAMS
-Click the box below for the skinny on this year's post-season
Zetterberg did not speak to the media following his team’s on-ice session as he was hustled off to a meeting with his doctor. Since undergoing back surgery in February, the Wings emotional and physical leader has progressed steadily to the point that the team hoped he would return for the second round.
But with the prospect of falling into a deep hole against the powerhouse Bruins, plus Zetterberg’s activity in practice this week, the process appears to have sped up.
During the morning skate, Zetterberg was on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Justin Abdelkader.
"I put him on a line, I put him on a power play,” Babcock said of Zetterberg’s role Thursday morning. “The doctors decide, not me. I'm hopeful. We'll know at game time."
Though it will take some time for Zetterberg to get up to world-class speed, there’s little doubt that his mere presence would give the Wings - and the Joe Louis Arena crowd - a big boost.
“We need him, he is our captain,” said Wings forward Darren Helm. “He’s a big-time leader. He might not be Hank that we know, but he’s going to give everything he’s got and lead by example. Emotionally he’s going to give it his all and guys are going to follow that.”
Zetterberg has been sidelined since undergoing back surgery which prevented him from representing Team Sweden at the Sochi Games and out of the Wings lineup.
Bruins coach Claude Julien said that he fully expected Zetterberg to be back in the lineup given his activity practising the past several days. And the Bruins players are expecting one of the game’s best leaders to have an impact.
“People in Sweden and over here know how he plays and what he brings to the game,” said Bruins winger and fellow Swede, Loui Eriksson. “Here in Detroit and with the Swedish national team, people know how big a leader he is. He’s been that way for a long time.”
The Wings will also have Todd Bertuzzi back in the lineup for Game 4 as Babcock looks to add some muscle and experience to his squad.