Wings’ Zetterberg centers line during practice

DETROIT — Understandably, when Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg is centering a line in practice, people are going to get excited.

But there was a good reason for that Wednesday.

Wings coach Mike Babcock said Pavel Datsyuk was out because his wife had a baby girl.

"I put him in there because I thought his number looked real good where Pavel was supposed to be," Babcock said. "We have doctors here that decide that (when Zetterberg can play), so they’ll let us know. If he’s available, he’ll be going."

Bad starts, bad endings

Similarly, the Wings called up Xavier Ouellet to take Niklas Kronwall’s spot in practice because Kronwall’s girlfriend is due to give birth at any time.

Daniel Alfredsson also sat out practice after missing Game 3, but not because of an impending birth in his family. He’s dealt with back issues for much of the season.

Zetterberg, who underwent back surgery Feb. 21, said he’s still just taking things day by day for now.

"I still have to do some skating," he said. "I appreciate that Pavel took the day off so I could actually have a skate today. It was the first real practice with the team, with the lines, so it felt good."

Todd Bertuzzi, who knows about dealing with back injuries, said Zetterberg looks good so far.

"I skated with him for about four or five days now," Bertuzzi said. "He looks good, he looks strong. Only he can tell whether it’s ready or not.

"The back is a pretty crucial part of your body, and I know he’s put a lot of time and work in and months to be back. So obviously, if he’s available, he would be a huge part of our team coming back."

The Wings know that they can’t expect Zetterberg to swoop in to be the savior.

"He looks good out there, but I’m not sure exactly how his symptoms and how he’s feeling," Justin Abdelkader said. "It’d be a great addition, but we can’t count on Zetterberg planning on coming in during the series. We’ve got to get it done with the guys we have here."

Zetterberg pointed out that he isn’t the one making the call on when he’s able to return. The doctors will do that.

"The more I amp stuff up in the gym and on the ice now, we just have to wait and see the reactions," Zetterberg said. "If I don’t feel any setbacks or don’t feel anything bad, that’s when I’ll probably start that conversation.

"But still this was the first practice I’ve really had where I’ve been in all the drills and skating a line."

Zetterberg said he needs to see how he feels Thursday morning. He also realizes that he won’t be 100-percent for a while.

"That first game, when that game will be, will be tough anyway," Zetterberg said. "Whether it’s in five days or two weeks, it’s going to be tough.

"But it’s all about being healed enough. As soon as I get the go-ahead that I’m healed and the disc is good, then I’ll think about coming back."

Zetterberg said they’ve accelerated his progress, but not to the point of endangering him.

"What I’ve gone through, I’m ahead of pace and there’s a reason for that," Zetterberg said. "If there weren’t any playoffs or if we were going to the first day of training camp, I wouldn’t be doing the stuff that I’m doing now.

"We want to rush it, but we want to do it at a safe pace. As soon as I can get in, I will."