September 3, 2014 at 8:22 pm

Daniel Alfredsson skating with Red Wings but undecided about return

Red Wings have first practice
Red Wings have first practice: Howard, Alfredsson, and Babcock talk about injuries and the upcoming season

Detroit — Will he or won’t he?

As Daniel Alfredsson took the Joe Louis ice as the Red Wings began precamp conditioning, that was the question on everyone’s mind: his playing status for this season.

“I’ve been skating in Sweden a little bit, and now coming here and doing the full skates,” said Alfredsson, who led Red Wings forwards with 49 points (18 goals) in 68 games last season. “It feels good, I just have to make sure it holds up.”

Alfredsson, 41, is expected to make a decision on his future — play another season or retire — in the next couple weeks.

He was troubled by a lower back injury at the end of last season, a nerve problem causing tingling down his right leg, and said he was forced to “back off” twice this summer while working out in Sweden because of the discomfort.

But he has felt better on the ice lately, and is optimistic as the training intensifies.

“It feels OK,” Alfredsson said. “It’s progressing good. I’d love to play, no question. But at the same time, you have to listen to your body.”

Red Wings general manager Ken Holland talked with Alfredsson’s agent last week, but a final decision likely will not be made until closer to the start of camp Sept. 18.

“You have to let the story play itself out,” Holland said. “He wants to play, he wants to be fair to the Detroit Red Wings, and he wants to test himself every day, and the test started this week.”

Alfredsson continues to possess one of the best and hardest shots in the league, can play the point on the power play and is a solid leader.

But ...

“He has to decide whether he can play or not,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We don’t want a part-time player. We want a full-time player. Guys have to be healthy and skate. ... If you start the year injured and you’re 25, you have a chance to finish the year healthy. When you start the year injured (at Alfredsson’s age), it gets a lot harder.”

One of the reasons Alfredsson is motivated to return is his belief the Red Wings continue to be a Stanley Cup contender.

He believes with everyone healthy — Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Stephen Weiss, among others, who were injured last season — and the experience the younger players gained, the Red Wings will be better for it.

In fact, Alfredsson considers the team a Stanley Cup contender.

“You have a great core,” he said. “Last year was frustrating for a lot of older guys but a great opportunity for younger guys.”

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Daniel Alfredsson had 18 goals and 31 assists in 68 games last season. / David Guralnick / Detroit News