TROY, Mich. — Don’t be surprised if the Red Wings rely on Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk even more than usual when the season gets under way.
That’s not just because the Euro Twins, as they are sometimes known, are their best players. They are also among the players who are already in game shape from playing in Europe.
Zetterberg has been playing for EV Zug in the Swiss League, where he had 16 goals and 16 assists in 23 games.
Datsyuk has been playing for CSKA Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), where he had 11 goals and 25 assists in 31 games and was a team-best plus-14.
Valtteri Filppula was playing for Jokerit in his native Finland but has been out for several weeks after spraining his knee. He only recently started skating so he’ll be playing catch-up.
A lot of teams have a lot of players who went overseas to play so those teams might have a bit of an advantage at the beginning, especially since there won’t be any preseason games.
“Obviously they’re going to have an extra step on everyone else, so I’m pretty thankful that our two superstars were playing and can carry the load until the rest of us can catch up,” Todd Bertuzzi said at the Troy Sports Center.
The ones who didn’t go to Europe have stayed in shape, but being in shape is a different thing from being in game shape.
“Those guys in Europe have been playing their season like normal,” Darren Helm said. “Maybe a little bit different style hockey, bigger ice. But they’ve been playing, they know what game mode is like. Hitting, backchecking, forechecking, system play.
“We’re not really used to that. We try to do a little bit of that every now and then, but you can’t compare anything that we do practicing until it gets to a game situation. We’re going to be a little bit behind.
“It’s definitely up to us to take it upon ourselves to really take these next two weeks and get back into game shape. I’m not too sure what (coach Mike Babcock) is going to have for us for practices. It’s going to be a pretty tough test for everyone to get back to game level that we’re used to.”
A player like defenseman Brendan Smith, who has been with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins during the lockout, will also be on his game at the start.
The Wings are all experienced hockey players who know what to do, so it’s about being able to do those things quickly.
“You better get up to game speed fast because it’s coming fast and you’ve got to be ready for it,” Mikael Samuelsson said. “If you’re ready for it, I don’t think it should be too much of a problem. Most problem, I said it before, that’s the timing. You see guys coming at you and you’ve got to play the puck. Games create that so you’ve got to wait and see.”