Slumping Wing Henrik Zetterberg gets a day off

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News

Detroit — The day after one of their more convincing wins of the season, a 5-1 victory over the high-powered Jets on Tuesday, the Red Wings hit the ice for a vigorous, physical practice without their captain, Henrik Zetterberg.

But no worries.

“Oh, he’s fine,” Jeff Blashill said Wednesday, of the 37-year-old Zetterberg, who is immersed in the longest stretch without a goal in his career, 21 games. “Just a maintenance day today.”

Despite the goal drought, Zetterberg is fifth in scoring on the team with 16 points after picking up his 12th assist of the season against Winnipeg.

Dylan Larkin leads the team with 23 points, followed by Anthony Mantha with 22, and Justin Abdelkader and Mike Green with 18.

With practices Wednesday and Friday sandwiched around a day off before their next game against the Blues at 1 p.m. Saturday at Little Caesars Arena, the Red Wings took the opportunity to engage in “battle drills,” some physical, full-speed puck possession skirmishes with frequent contact.

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Zetterberg missed what would have been a good day for him. Other players said that since Pavel Datsyuk left, their captain, with his skill, puck-handling ability and squat, low-center-of-gravity frame, makes him their best player when a puck carrier faces hard challenges.

“It was good today to be able to have a good work day and battle,” Blashill said of the three days off, a rare break in the regular season. “We’ll do a little bit of battling on Friday to get ready for Saturday, too.

“But you don’t have many days in the year when you have three days like that. Now, we’ll take tomorrow off, just because part of that is when you haven’t gone three days before a game all year, it’s harder then all of a sudden in December to throw it in.

“I mean, the only time we did it was out of camp.

“So, we’ll take tomorrow off and then get back and make sure we’re battle tested on Friday, so we come Saturday ready to go.”

The Blues entered play Wednesday tied fourth in the NHL, with 38 points, 11 more than the Wings.

The Blues are in second in the Central Division, with a goal differential of plus-17, to the Wings’ minus-12.