Wings’ Zetterberg not missing a beat down the stretch
Detroit — Some veterans took a day off earlier this week when the Red Wings held an optional practice.
Ironically, forward Henrik Zetterberg, at 37 years young, wasn’t one of them.
The Red Wings’ captain has stayed off the ice more often than not, when given the option, but was on the ice just hours after a tough Red Wings’ defeat and a brutal schedule ahead.
“He knows how to manage his body,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “Zetterberg, regardless of him being off practice, he’s been probably our best player over the last month and a half.”
Zetterberg entered Saturday’s game against Carolina with 41 points (8 goals, 33 assists), trailing only Dylan Larkin (44).
Though not getting any younger and possibly dealing with some lingering injuries, Zetterberg has again played every game this season.
If Zetterberg plays every game this season, it would be the third consecutive season of playing every game.
Zetterberg’s plus-3 rating ranks second behind defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (plus-5).
“You look at the production, point-wise, you look at the scoring chances for and against, Hank gives up such a little amount of scoring chances, so his differentiation is always excellent,” Blashill said. “Like I said, he’s probably been our most consistent and best forward over the last month, month and a half.”
Many of Zetterberg’s strengths, said Blashill, don’t necessarily have to be perfected during practice.
“His brain, his strength on the puck, his competitiveness, it comes through on a nightly basis,” Blashill said. “It just shows what a special player he still is and what he’s been throughout his career.”
WILL BE MISSED
Defenseman Mike Green (upper body) was expected to miss his fifth consecutive game Saturday, and probably won’t play Sunday in New York against the Rangers.
Green suffered an apparent neck injury Feb. 15 against Tampa Bay and hasn’t been able to play since, though he has practiced twice.
The ticklish issue for the Red Wings is, Green is a big bargaining chip heading into Monday’s trade deadline.
If not 100 percent physically, Green’s value to another team could be hurt somewhat.
Blashill talked about how Green’s veteran presence has helped the other young Red Wings’ players.
“Mike’s work ethic and his will to win have rubbed off on young players in this locker room,” Blashill said. “He’s been excellent. His competitiveness has been excellent. I’m not sure that everybody totally understood, maybe perception wasn’t quite that, but the reality is he comes to work, and competes every day.
“I’ve been real impressed. It rubs off on everybody in the locker room.”
Larkin, with 35 assists, has nearly reached the total of his first two seasons combined (37).
Blashill isn’t surprised by the number of assists Larkin has produced.
“Larks came into the year with a concerted effort to have more of a give-and-go game,” Blashill said. “If things don’t go right with Larks, he always goes back to his number one asset, his legs, and we certainly get that.
“But he’s also learned to slow the game down at times, learned to change pace, to give and go. As a result, he’s had more assists because of that.”
RED WINGS at RANGERS
Faceoff: 7:30 p.m., Sunday, Madison Square Garden.
TV/radio: Fox Sports Detroit/97.1 FM
Outlook: The Rangers (27-30-5, 59 points) are in the unusal position of being a seller ahead of Monday’s trade deadline…The Rangers have lost eight of their last 10 games (2-8) and are sinking fast…G Henrik Lundqvist (23-21-4, 2.89 GAA, .914 SVS) is one of the few bright spots.