Defenseman shares insights on Red Wings captain's absence. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News


Detroit — It was a little strange not seeing Henrik Zetterberg getting ready, but it sounds as if the Red Wings need to get used to it.

The team has begun informal workouts and the majority of the roster was at Little Caesars Arena Thursday morning, getting ready before training camp begins next week.

Nearly everyone but Zetterberg, the captain, who wasn't there and won’t be for training camp and the start of the season.

And, likely, for the rest of the season and beyond.

Zetterberg, who’ll be 38 on Oct. 9, has been unable to train because of persistent back pain. Zetterberg didn’t practice the second half of last season — though he did somehow play in all 82 games — and a summer of rest hasn’t eased the pain.

General manager Ken Holland said Zetterberg will see Dr. Frank Cammisa next week in New York to get an opinion on what to do next. Cammisa operated on the Red Wings captain's back in 2014.

The Red Wings GM is not hopeful about Zetterberg’s hockey-playing future.

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“I’m not optimistic because it’s the National Hockey League and he has to compete against players that are younger than him, and they’ve been in the gym every day all summer,” Holland said. “That’s what athletes in our sport do. He’s not able to do that.

"He’s not able to train at a level that he needs to train at in order to be at the level to play in the league.

“If he were able to train, he would have trained all May, June, July. He hasn’t trained at all.

“So, I’m waiting to see what Dr. Cammisa says. We’re waiting for Hank to go in and see Dr. Camissa and see what he (Dr. Cammisa) recommends, suggests, thinks.”

Zetterberg’s longtime teammate and friend Niklas Kronwall — who has dealt with severe knee issues himself — said Zetterberg must be able to physically prepare to play, before even thinking about resuming an NHL career.

“I know he’s had a tough summer,” Kronwall said. “He might be OK right now on a day to day basis but if you can’t train, it’s tough to play hockey at the level of the NHL. It’s just a reality. If you can’t train, nobody has that kind of talent.

“You feel for him, but at the same time, he has to train to be able to play and compete at this level, regardless of how talented or good he is. If you can’t train, it’s tough to play at this level.

“Right now, we can hope he can get some answers and hopefully some guidance to do something that makes him able to train again.”

Gustav Nyquist happened to be Zetterberg’s roommate on Sweden at the 2014 Olympics where back pain cut short Zetterberg’s participation and led to surgery.

“It was tough to see, he didn’t sleep for four days,” Nyquist said. “The amount of pain he was in, it was to tough to see. Luckily that surgery went well, well enough he could play a few years. It’s been impressive what he’s done to play all these games (the past few years).”

Zetterberg had 56 points last season (with 11 goals) and averaged nearly 20 minutes of ice time (19:30), while guiding a roster that is gradually turning younger and inexperienced.

“He’s our leader and he’s still our best player in my opinion,” Nyquist said. “It would be a tough loss for sure.”

Said forward Justin Abdelkader: “He’s not a guy you can just replace. As a group we have to come in, the veteran guys who have been in this league a long time and know what it takes to win. We have to keep the culture and stay with it here.”