DETROIT — Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said he owes Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara for giving him a hand at the Sochi Olympics.
"You know, Chara was actually the guy that helped me with my bag at the Olympics," Zetterberg said. "He’s part of this rehab.
"When we flew home from the Olympics, I was walking out and had a backpack with me and he said, ‘You’re not carrying that,’ so he carried it for me."
Now Zetterberg’s team will play Chara’s team in the first round of the playoffs, but it will likely be without Zetterberg, who’s recovering from his Feb. 21 back surgery.
Zetterberg has been skating on his own since last week and was back on the ice for a bit before the Wings practiced Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena.
Although it’s more likely he’ll see game action if the Wings advance to Round 2, Zetterberg hasn’t completely ruled out playing in the first round.
"We got two extra days — thought we were going to start Wednesday and now it’s Friday," Zetterberg said. "We’ll see. There are still a lot of things that need to fall in place.
"Up till now, everything in the rehab has gone good. Now, hopefully, Thursday I’ll skate a little bit with the team and keep making progress every day.
"We were always shooting for Round 2, but we have two extra days now. If it’s just before that, I will be happy. It’s still a ways away. I’m doing well, happy to be back skating here."
Zetterberg said he’ll be traveling with the team to Boston and continuing to skate.
"I haven’t skated a lot," he said. "This phase — being on the ice more, skating more, being involved more with the team — is going to decide when I come back. It’s impossible to say now if it’s Round 2, if it’s before or after that.
"There’s a lot of things that need to happen, but so far, everything has been good. We just have to keep taking it day by day."
Zetterberg, who stayed away and let others lead down the regular-season stretch, said he plans to be around more during the playoffs — even if he isn’t ready to go. And the young Wings seem thrilled to have him with them as they prepare for the Bruins.
"Just seeing him around the locker room and seeing the good spirit he’s in, obviously, he’s getting closer and closer to being able to play," Riley Sheahan said. "Even though he’s not in our lineup, he’s still around the room and he’s always a great face to see.
"He’s always enthusiastic and definitely helps the young guys get ready for the playoffs."
LOOK OUT FOR CHARA
Taking out the Bruins means trying to beat Norris Trophy winner Chara, the 6-foot-9 behemoth who mans the blue line for Boston.
He averages 24 minutes, 39 seconds a game, more than any player in this series. Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall is close, averaging 24:18.
"When he stands on the hash marks in his own zone, he’s got one foot on one hash and one foot on the other hash and he can reach to your blue line," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "I’ve coached against him a ton. He’s a good player.
"As a good a player as he is, he’s probably a better leader and better person. Those are the guys you build a franchise around. Him and (Patrice) Bergeron, they set the tone for them."
Wings forward Tomas Tatar knows Chara well from Slovakia.
"We are from same hometown pretty much, so I meet with Z a lot during the summer," Tatar said. "Great guy. I think he’s a great leader."
One thing Tatar didn’t learn from Chara was how to train like him.
"I would say it’s pretty much impossible to train with Z," Tatar said. "That’s what he does off the ice. He’s doing extremely heavy weights. He’s so big and so heavy.
"Just how he practices, it doesn’t matter how old he is, he does the same thing all the time. It’s pretty unique. Everybody knows that around the league.That’s why he gets so much respect."
Chara certainly has the respect of all the Wings, especially the forwards who want to get past him.
"You come against him and you think 99.9 percent of the other D wouldn’t be able to reach the puck, but he can," Gustav Nyquist said. "So you gotta really be aware of that, for sure, so you don’t get turnovers."
Tatar knows it won’t be easy.
"I know him like a friend, but he’s not real friendly on the ice," Tatar said.
SMITH VERSUS SMITH
Poor Deidre and Lester Smith.
Those are the parents of 25-year-old Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith and 23-year-old Boston Bruins forward Reilly Smith, who will play against each other in the first round of the playoffs.
"Just to play a playoff series in general is exciting, and it’s really exciting that I’m going to be playing against my little brother," Brendan Smith said after practice Tuesday."It’s going to be that much more fun, and I think it’s more tough on my parents."
Smith said his parents will be at the first couple of games in Boston and the two after that in Detroit.
Will there be any trash talking when the two are on the ice?
"We’ll trash talk a little bit, obviously, we’re brothers," Smith said.
Smith said his parents were hoping that the Wings would take the first wild-card spot and maybe play the Bruins in a later round, but it didn’t work out that way.
"I think the biggest thing is, they want Reilly to score but me to play really well, and nobody to score against me and shut down the first line," Smith said. "It’s gonna be like that because they love us both.
"If it could end up in a tie, that’s what they would want. But it’s not."