Team captain Henrik Zetterberg made a key return on Saturday evening. The Wings faced off against the Florida Panthers after a four-day break, giving the team just the right amount of time to nurse their injured and bring back the names the team has been relying on over the past few years.“We won three out of four here suddenly and some things are better, obviously getting (Zetterberg) and (Abdelkader) back,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “(Abdelkader) skated well tonight, and Zetterberg is just a good player with good will and provides leadership for us.”
Two other team members will get their opportunity to return against the Nashville Predators this coming Monday. Goaltender Jimmy Howard, who has been out since the announcement of his MCL sprain was made on December 13. Darren Helm has been plagued by injuries his entire career, including groin, shoulder and concussion issues. Helm will also make his return on Monday, after being sidelined for about a full month with a shoulder injury.
Red Wings’ staff and players are finally making a step towards a successful second half of the season. Without the strong play of Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and Tomas Jurco, the team could have been in an even greater funk coming out of the Christmas break.
Detroit beat the Panthers on Saturday with a score of 4-3 continuing to make improvements beyond the team’s sole victory.
“We made some big mistakes. We gave them two goals with turnovers, kids making mistakes, but you learn from those things,” Babcock said. “We found a way to win a game and we’re going to skate a lot better after another day’s practice. Everyone had turkey legs at the start, but they got going.”
Henrik Zetterberg scored a power play goal 14:29 into the first period on an assist from his long time partner in destruction, Pavel Datsyuk.
“Each team has three power plays in the first. It’s a nightmare,” Babcock said. “You’re trying to play your whole bench and they won’t let you. In the end, we had good special teams for us and it was positive.”
Successful special teams have been a struggle for Detroit this year. In years past, the team has sat at the top of the league in power play percentage and penalty kill percentage.
This season, the Red Wings sit at 12th in the NHL, with 18.8 percent on the power play and seventh in the league for penalty killing, with an 84.6 percent rate.
With Zetterberg back on the power play and Justin Abdelkader back on the penalty kill, the team can continue their improvement to the top of the league’s special teams division.
“It’s huge,” Nyquist said of having Zetterberg back in the lineup. “Hank brings so much to this team, both on and off the ice. With him and (Pavel) playing, you can really feel the difference. That’s why they’re our leaders.”
There was a lot of team leadership in the first period. Pavel Datsyuk racked in two assists, while Zetterberg and Daniel Alfredsson got a goal apiece.
The Detroit Red Wings will try to win another game and move themselves up in the standings against the Nashville Predators on Monday, December 30 at 8:00 p.m.
* * *
Information from the Detroit Red Wings was used in this report.
For more information on the Detroit Red Wings and NHL hockey from analysts and journalists at Michigan State University – tune into Octopi Hockeytown podcasts and embrace the Spartan debate at www.impact89fm.org/sports
Austin Goodman is the host of Octopi Hockeytown for Impact Sports
DET – 3:47 PPG – D. Alfredsson (Snap) (N. Kronwall, P. Datsyuk)
DET – 14:29 PPG – H. Zetterberg (Wrist) (P. Datsyuk)
FLA – 12:52 PPG – S. Bergenheim (Backhand) (B. Campbell, A. Barkov)
FLA – 14:59 – N. Bjugstad (Wrist) Unassisted
DET – 0:42 – B. Smith (Slap) (K. Quincey)
DET – 1:20 – G. Nyquist (Wrist) (J. Kindl, T. Tatar)
FLA – 4:27 – S. Bergenheim (Wrist) (D. Olsen, M. Goc)
First: Sean Bergenheim
(2G, +1, 2 shots, 2 hits, 2PIM, 15:27 TOI)
Second: Henrik Zetterberg
(1G, +1, 3 shots, 1 hit, 2PIM, 21:43 TOI)
Third: Nick Bjugstad
(1G, +1, 4 shots, 3 hits, 2PIM, 17:16 TOI)