'You want to play against teams like this; it's great for the fans and we're looking forward to this,' Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg said of playing the Canadiens. (David Guralnick / Detroit News)
Detroit — The buzz is understandable.
After all, it’s the Canadiens, one of the grand franchises in sports.
And they’re playing at Joe Louis Arena for the first time since 2010.
“You want to play against teams like this,” Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg said of Friday night’s game. “It’s great for the fans and we’re looking forward to this.
And there will be more.
Counting Friday’s game, the two Atlantic Division rivals play four more times the rest of the season.
And they’re bound to be important games — the Canadiens lead the Red Wings by five points in the standings (59-54).
“It is a big game if you look at the standings,” Zetterberg said. “We both need points, and that’s going to be a factor.”
The Canadiens are coming off an ugly, 5-1 loss to the Penguins on Wednesday, and have been inconsistent lately (4-4-2).
But Red Wings coach Mike Babcock sees a dangerous team.
“They are quick and have some high-end talent,” he said. “The goaltending (Carey Price) is outstanding, so that is going to be a handful.”
Alfredsson nears return
The Red Wings could get another healthy body back Friday after forward Daniel Alfredsson(inflamed back) skated Thursday.
“I’m going to talk with the coaches and medical staff and go from there,” said Alfredsson, who has missed the last six games. “It’s been a little more intense the last couple of days, but I feel good and I don’t expect anything will change.”
Said Babcock: “He hasn’t done any negotiating with me (about returning to the lineup). We’ll see.”
Forward Johan Franzen (concussion) also reported progress.
“I’m just happy I’m feeling like I’m not in a fog for the first day,” said Franzen, out since Dec. 17. “Hopefully it continues that way.”
There weren’t many players on the ice for Thursday’s optional skate.
... Goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, coming off the shootout victory over Chicago, will start Friday.
…The addition of young forwards Tomas Jurco, Riley Sheahan and Luke Glendening to the lineup has improved the team’s speed.
“We’re quicker and we’ve been competing harder than we were earlier,” Babcock said. “We have to compete at another level because we don’t have the skill.”
... Babcock, who will coach Team Canada at the Sochi Olympics next month, understands if some players are hesitant about security concerns.
“It’s important for players to gather information for themselves and understand what they’re getting themselves and their families into,” said Babcock, whose family will not attend because of a prior commitment. “It’s unfortunate, but it’s the reality of the situation.”