Wings’ Zetterberg, 36, not thinking retirement

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — At age 36, and after having gone through back surgery in 2014 and a poor second half last season, it was fair to wonder whether Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg was beginning a decline in his career. As it turns out, Zetterberg is showing he’s still among the stars in this league.

He’s leading the team in scoring, providing his usual leadership, and for his perseverance, dedication and sportsmanship, he was nominated Friday as Detroit’s candidate for the Masterson Trophy, as chosen by the Detroit Professional Hockey Writers Association.

“We all stood here after last season and talked about my poor second half and it’s something I wanted to change,” Zetterberg said. “I wanted to be more consistent for the whole year.”

Zetterberg has changed his approach in the weight room, taken the occasional day off from practice in a busy stretch of the schedule, and concentrated on feeling fresher for games.

“It doesn’t get any easier the older you get,” Zetterberg said .”Me and Kroner (Niklas Kronwall) are joking around about that every day, when we see all the young guys coming in here fresh as daisies every morning and me and Kroner are looking at each other wondering how we are going to make it onto the ice.

“I’m glad I have him. We can go through it together and spend a lot of time together off the ice.”

For the time being, retirement isn’t on the radar, though Zetterberg understands the end of his career is closer than the beginning of it was.

“I’ve learned not to look too far ahead, you just have to enjoy the moment,” Zetterberg said. “You know what’ll happen. But right now, I’m looking forward to returning next year, next season.”

When the season began, coach Jeff Blashill was thinking of cutting Zetterberg’s minutes in an effort to him fresh for the long season.

But that idea was scrapped early, with Zetterberg showing signs of playing some of the best hockey of his career.

“I came into the year and part of me was ready to reduce his minutes,” Blashill said. “I decided to let it play out and (by way of Zetterberg’s play) he’s demanded more minutes.

“The way he’s going right now, it sure looks like he’s at top of his game and it’s something that can continue on.”

Zetterberg went into Friday night’s game against Tampa Bay with 60 points (15 goals, 45 assists), while having played in all 72 games, with a plus-15 plus-minus rating. While it’s been an outstanding season personally, as a team, the Red Wings are about to end a 25-year streak of making the playoffs.

Zetterberg is not pleased about that possibility.

“You definitely don’t want to be part of the ending of the streak,” Zetterberg said. “But it is what it is. It’s been a good streak, and when you’re thinking back on it, you’ll be proud of it.

“But right now, it’s hard to talk about it because you’re a big reason it’s not continuing.”

Zetterberg said he feels the Red Wings can rebound from this season in fairly quick fashion.

“We have shown this year, when we are playing well, we’re a good team, it’s the inconsistency that has been our problem,” Zetterberg said. “We have a lot of good pieces in the room, a lot of young players that are playing well.

“Every team looks for one or two additions that can come in and do well for you. It’s nothing different for us. It’s going to be a big off-season for us, we have a lot of draft picks and we have work to do here.

“Even though this year has been a rough year for everyone, this is still the thing I love to do the most, play for this organization and town. You just try to find the positive things and focus to get better every day.”