Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 02/24/14 at 12:59 PM ET
NHL hockey nears a return and Scott Cullen weighs in on what happened during the Olympics and how it will affect players and teams going down the stretch. Notes on Zetterberg, Tavares, Ovechkin, Kessel, Granlund, Crosby, Kunitz, Price and more.
1. It's been a big enough challenge for the Detroit Red Wings this season, battling injuries as they sit in the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but as they return from the Olympics, they do so with the knowledge that star LW/C Henrik Zetterberg is out for at least the next eight weeks following back surgery. For the record, there are about seven weeks left in the regular season, so expecting Zetterberg for the first drop of the puck in the playoffs sounds a tad optimistic.
No big deal. Zetterberg merely leads the Wings, with 48 points in 45 games and, at 20:33 per game, is one of two Red Wings forwards (Pavel Datsyuk, at 20:45 ATOI is the other) to play more than 18 minutes per game. He's a puck possession star who plays tough minutes, so the Wings are going to be hard-pressed to replace Zetterberg's contributions.
Certainly, if Datsyuk is healthy enough to play -- and he was healthy enough to put up six points in five games for Russia at the Olympics -- then that will help matters, but the Wings are still going to depend heavily on their young forwards that have been playing an increasing role as the season has progressed....
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