DETROIT — Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg looks to be playoff-ready, just looking at his impressive beard.
"I want to play hockey again this year and obviously that would be sometime in the playoffs, so I might as well get a head start (on the playoff beard)," said Zetterberg, speaking for the first time since undergoing back surgery Feb. 21.
Zetterberg, who scored the game-winning goal in Team Sweden’s first game in the Olympics, said he had a rough go after that in Sochi.
"The first 3-4 days was not good at all," Zetterberg said. "The tough part was not being able to fly home. I think it took so long before I felt good enough to first of all, leave the village and take myself to a plane."
Gustav Nyquist was Zetterberg’s roommate in Sochi, and Zetterberg said Nyquist helped him a lot until he could leave.
"It’s not fun to see," Nyquist said. "He was really hurting and whenever a teammate goes down like (that) and to see how frustrated he was, he really wanted to lead our team in Sochi as well, and lead us into the playoffs, it’s tough to see when a guy is hurting that bad.
"But again, it’s nice to see that he’s back on his feet and walking around down here. He looks to be in pretty good shape."
Zetterberg said he felt better right after surgery.
"The sensation and pain I had when I was over in Russia went away when I woke up from surgery, so that was a big relief," Zetterberg said. "Then after surgery obviously it was stiff and tight and sore from the surgery but that kind of turned around after the Nick night here (March 6). I think after that was when I started doing some rehab stuff and it went away pretty fast."
Zetterberg said when he had his back trouble in December, at the time doctors did not believe he needed surgery.
"We knew there was a chance down the road maybe we (would have) to go in and do something, but in December (we did) not and I went through the rehab, I felt good, came back playing and felt good," Zetterberg said. "Going into Olympics, I felt great. Excited to go. Played that game, felt fine there and woke up next day and different feeling."
Zetterberg said he doesn’t believe he’ll have any more problems now that he’s had surgery.
"We went in, took away two pieces from my disc that were pushing on the nerve and once this is healed and properly rehabbed, I shouldn’t have an issue again," he said.
Although Zetterberg has started rehab, he said it’s still too soon to set a timetable on when he could return.
"The only timeline we have is that eight weeks before contact," Zetterberg said. "After that, just gotta reevaluate and hopefully I’m good enough to do some contact drills and we’ll see how fast it goes."
Even though he’s feeling much better, Zetterberg said watching games is not his favorite thing.
"I’m kind of jealous I’m not in it," Zetterberg said. "This is the best time of the year. We want to make the playoffs and whenever we’re in the playoffs it’s the best time of the year. We went through this last year, too, and the guys are doing a great job. They’re battling. We know what we have to do. We have to win games. I don’t like sitting and watching from the outside, so the games are pretty tough and I’d rather be in there to play."
Nyquist has since passed Zetterberg for the team lead in scoring, with eight goals in his last six games and 20 of his 25 since Jan. 20.
"It’s awesome to see," Zetterberg said. "I think ever since he came up this year, he scored right away and basically hasn’t stopped. It’s fun. He’s a hard-working guy, he’s a big part of our group. He’s the hottest player in the league right now and we hope it’s going to continue."
The Wings are currently in the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference but have a lot of work to do to keep a playoff spot.
Zetterberg believes the Wings can reach the playoffs without him and the other injured players.
"The guys who came up from Grand Rapids and other additions that we’ve had have played really well, and if it wasn’t for all the injuries we’ve had this year we wouldn’t have seen all those guys," Zetterberg said. "We wouldn’t have known what we had in the system, so just got to get through this, get into the playoffs and then we can have some fun."
"I’m feeling good, much better than a week ago so every couple of days there’s big progress," Jurco said. "That’s why I didn’t play Tuesday. I wanted to wait a couple more days. It feels much better right now so I think I’m ready to go (Thursday)."
Jurco suffered a broken rib when he was cross-checked by Columbus’ Blake Comeau March 11.
"There’s a little pain, but it’s not too bad so it’s good," Jurco said. "It’s been tough watching the games and not be able to help the team, but now I’m back and hopefully I can help the team (Thursday)."
Jurco said he’s adjusted his game since coming to the NHL.
"It’s a different league here," Jurco said. "I can’t just dangle all the way to the net like in Juniors or the AHL so it’s different. I’m playing more simple and more physical. If that’s the key I’ll just keep playing like that.
"It took me a few games to adjust. With (Babcock) always saying we have to be physical and be strong on the puck, so he makes it a lot easier to adjust quicker."
Justin Abdelkader, who also skated in the optional practice, said he’s getting closer but is not sure when he’ll play.
"Wednesday at the latest," Abdelkader said. "I haven’t practiced with the team yet. I haven’t gone through a full practice or full drills, so we’ll see how it responds and go from there."
Abdelkader suffered a lacerated leg when the Wings played in Chicago March 16.
Although Pavel Datsyuk has started skating and did so again Wednesday, coach Mike Babcock doesn’t seem too optimistic about his return.
"I never bothered to be looking," Babcock said. "(Athletic trainer) Piet (VanZant) told me today that he looks like he could play but I’ve heard that lots. When I see him in the lineup I’ll believe it."
The Wings have gotten Darren Helm back, Jurco is about to return, and Abdelkader is close but Babcock emphasized that doesn’t mean they’ll be the same players they were before they were hurt.
"You get them back but they’re good for one game and then it takes them about three games to get their conditioning up to speed," Babcock said. "Normally during the year, you spend more time getting them ready. A guy like Jurcs, who had ribs, it’s not as big a deal. But when you have concussions or things like that and you can’t skate â¦ you say you have the player back but you never got him back, you just got his number or his name. So, obviously, Helmer after a few games should be a lot better. Jurcs should be ready to go because he’s been skating."