DETROIT — Henrik Zetterberg made his much-anticipated return to Red Wings practice Thursday and the result was encouraging.
"It was fun, it was fun to be out with the guys," said Zetterberg, who skated for about a 30 minutes and participated in some drills. "Hopefully, I’ll be able to do more stuff tomorrow.
"You just got to take it day by day and increase what you do out there, and eventually we’ll play."
Zetterberg had back surgery on Feb. 21 to remove a part of disc that was pressing on a nerve. He’s been skating on his own for a week or so, but Thursday was the first time he skated with his team.
As relieved as he seemed, Detroit’s captain knows that his road to recovery is still a long one.
"We do it in phases," he said. "This phase, I’m on the ice, and if it feels good, the next day, I’ll go harder."
As much as he wants to play — the Wings open the playoffs Friday in Boston — Zetterberg won’t push it to return to the lineup. He’ll leave his return date up to the team’s medical staff.
"I don’t think I could do anything good out there for game one, anyway," Zetterberg said. "The guys that are playing can do more damage than I can do right now.
"Eventually, hopefully soon, I’ll be able to do full practices and go from there."
Most of Zetterberg’s teammates were elated to see him on the ice, but were cautious to comment on how he looked. They were just glad to see him not in pain and being part of the team again.
Wings coach Mike Babcock seemed to be pleased, but like Zetterberg, was cautiously optimistice.
"I saw him at Nick Lidstrom’s retirement March 6 and he couldn’t walk," Babcock said. "He hobbled his way out onto the ice. Now he’s out there skating. That’s a long way in a short period of time.
"Anyone that’s been injured and off a good chunk of time, when they arrive back, they see how fast everything is. It’s hard.
"That’s the tough thing about injuries. Even when you get the guys back, they’re not themselves. They wear the same number, but they don’t do what they did because it’s just too hard."
FRANZEN THE PACIFIST
Everybody knows that the Boston Bruins like to engage in extra-curricular activities, especially after the whistle.
They try to throw you off your game with an intense physical style that crosses the line, and because of that, how the Wings respond could determine the outcome of the series. They must maintain their composure and stay out of the penalty box.
"We talked about that, and we’re going to try to stay out of it," Johan Franzen sid. "We don’t need to get into any of that. They want that, so if we can stay away from it, it’s going to frustrate them a little bit."
When he was reminded that he sometimes likes to muck it up after the whistle, Franzen acknowledged that keeping a level head could be difficult
"It depends on what kind of mood you’re in at the moment," he said. "Sometimes you’re so pissed at yourself or whatever — not playing good enough or something like that — it’s tough to turn the other cheek and walk away. But I’ll do my best."
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
The Wings haven’t played a game since closing out the season with a 3-0 victory Sunday in St. Louis.
Usually, a team would like a few days off before the playoffs begin, but the Wings have had four — an off day and three straight practice days — which they welcomed.
"Anytime you can have a few days practice, you can work down to all the details of the game," Nik Kronwall said. "It’s a lot easier than if you’re having a lot of games. It’s been a good three days, and now we should be ready."
Wings coach Mike Babcock also believes that the threee practice days should benefit his team.
"It’s been good for us," he said. "We need to get some guys healthy. We’ve had seven D (defensemen) all year. But then most of the year, someone has been hurt, so we’ve been wearing on six D in practice.
"That was good to freshen up that group. We had some that were bumped and bruised."
Babcock also pointed out that since the Wings are the lower seed, the extra practice days gave him and his staff more time to prepare for the Bruins — perhaps closing the gap a bit.
"We know Boston now, but you can throw that stuff out because once the puck is dropped, it’s whoever wants it the most in the end is going to win," he Babcock. "That’s how it happens. At least we’re prepared."