Henrik Zetterberg would be a welcome addition to a team that just got shut out Tuesday against the Flyers. (Leon Halip / Getty Images)
Detroit — Winning games and securing points in the standings is crucial for the Red Wings these days.
Adding a player like Henrik Zetterberg can help earn victories, which makes his probable return Friday against Washington a huge plus.
Zetterberg participated in Thursday’s practice and expressed optimism he could return against the Capitals. He has missed the last two games with back issues, although not exactly related to the problem in mid-December which forced him to miss 11 games.
“It’s different, but in the area,” said Zetterberg, whose return would strengthen a lineup that was shut out Tuesday in Philadelphia and a power play that’s sinking fast. “We’ll just have to see. We’re doing everything we can so it doesn’t get any worse. Hopefully it goes on this path and gets better and better.
“It was a good day (Thursday). It was fun to skate again. I skated a little bit (Wednesday). Hopefully I’ll feel good in the morning skate and we’ll go from there.”
Having the back issues return soon after the last episode doesn’t concern Zetterberg at this point.
“Not really,” Zetterberg said. “My concern is for tomorrow night. We have five games here before the break, and that’s what my mindset is.”
Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk (lower body) both skated Thursday but coach Mike Babcock has already ruled out Datsyuk, who last played Jan. 1 in the Winter Classic.
“I think Z might (play),” said Babcock, who wasn’t as optimistic about Datsyuk. “He was still one-leg skating.”
Goalie Jimmy Howard (left knee) will return to the lineup Friday, after missing the last four games.
Howard replaces Jonas Gustavsson, who went 2-1-1 in Howard’s absence.
Howard was confident his latest knee flare-up wouldn’t keep him out as long as the two weeks in December.
“It definitely wasn’t as serious as before,” Howard said. “I knew it wasn’t going to be that long.”
Having allowed nine goals the last two games, the Red Wings will be further tested defensively by a Washington team that’s led by the league’s leading goal scorer in Alex Ovechkin (38 goals).
But Ovechkin is hardly alone as far as dangerous offensive players on the Capitals, who have Nicklas Backstrom (39 assists), Mikhail Grabovski (33 points) and Mike Green (23 assists), among others, who can create offense
“He’s obviously a great player, but he plays with great players as well,” Zetterberg said. “You have to be aware of not just Ovi, but the other guys that play with him.
“You have to minimize his space, and it makes it easier if you have the puck rather than chasing the puck.”
Tuesday’s loss in Philadelphia was particularly disappointing to the Red Wings, who felt they weren’t nearly structured or tight enough.
“Too many lapses,” Danny DeKeyser said. “It’s something we have to clean up, learn from our mistakes and take care of it.
“(Washington) has a lot of skill offensively and you have to limit their chances and take care of the puck.”