The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/08/11 at 01:58 AM ET
I tend to literally lose sleep around this time of night because I’m vacillating between, “I desperately need a break from hockey” and, “Dammit, I’m sitting on stories that should be out there, but if I post ‘em now they’ll get buried on the second or third page by the middle of the morning.” Between that and the fact that Detroit’s newspapers don’t update their websites until 2-4 AM, I’ve found an hour of restless sleep at least makes the five hours between finishing up a game preview and rousing myself from bed for the Wings’ morning skate a little more tolerable.
That being said, a few evening stories popped up regarding the status of Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg, who’s out with a supposed “lower-body injury” (ankle? knee? Charley horse? All three?) for this weekend’s back-to-back games against Chicago, and these stories offer different perspectives on Zetterberg and Wings coach Mike Babcock’s exchanges with the press that are worth posting here and now—and MLive’s Ansar Khan kicks off the proceedings by noting that Zetterberg wasn’t quite sure whether he’d play when the playoffs begin:
“This is when the fun time starts,” Zetterberg said. “You want to be healthy, you want to be ready to go. You’re never 100 percent this time of year, but you want to be able to be out there.”
So will he play come Wednesday or Thursday?
“It’s a fine line, that’s why it’s day by day,” Zetterberg said. “Just got to see how everything goes. Make a decision every morning when I get in here.”
Asked if he might be out an extended period, Zetterberg said, “Depends. Could be day by day by day by day by day. I did this before once. It’s definitely more pain this time than last time, so that kind of scared me at first. You just have to deal with it, and hopefully, it’ll heal fast.”
Kris Draper and Brad Stuart stated the obvious regarding Zetterberg’s absence:
“We lost one of our top players. It’s tough, we’re going to have to deal with that,” Draper said. “We’ve played with (injuries to) top players before, guys just have to elevate their game. Guys are going to get an opportunity. He’s a guy that plays 20-plus minutes a night in all situations.”
Said defenseman Brad Stuart: “We’ve done it all year, in previous years. We’ve had injuries and some guys are used to being able to step up and fill a little bigger role.”
Khan also reports that Ken Holland says Niklas Kronwall’s “upper-body injury” is, “Nothing significant,” but at the same time, it’s apparently significant enough that he probably won’t play in either of this weekend’s games.
Babcock also spoke to the Detroit News’s Tim Twentyman about filling the hole Zetterberg leaves in the lineup:
“Everyone else has to play, it’s that simple,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “It’s always been like that in sports and this is an opportunity for someone else.”
The injury will force Babcock to tweak his lines this weekend — and possibly the playoffs. He expects to lean more on players like Valtteri Filppula, Jiri Hudler, Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm in Zetterberg’s absence.
“The thing we have going for us is that we’ve played with injures all year and we’ve had different guys step up and that’s just going to be the case here,” Abdelkader said. “Each of us is going to have to raise our game a little bit and I think we’re all capable of doing it in here.”
Red Wings veteran forward Kris Draper reiterated Thursday that with or without Zetterberg, the goal is still the same.
“We’ve played before with top players being injured,” he said. “For those guys that get the opportunities, they have to be real good. There are going to be some guys that have to step up and play a bigger role then they thought was going to happen We’ve been pretty good this year when guys have went down other guys have stepped up.”
And while Zetterberg sounded iffy while speaking to Khan, WXYZ’s Tom Leyden notes that Babcock was emphatic about the concept that Zetterberg would play next week:
Head coach Mike Babcock said clearly, many times, “He’s out for the weekend with a lower-body injury. After that he’s day-to-day.”
When asked if he thought Zetterberg would play in the playoffs, Babcock said, “Oh yeah.”
Zetterberg concurred that he will be on the ice as soon as possible and will be available for the playoffs.
Zetterberg did confirm no surgery was necessary, but refused to go into detail on the nature of the injury, saying, “I’m not a doctor.”
Leyden posted a superb video report which includes comments from Babcock, Zetterberg, Draper, Jiri Hudler and Darren Helm…
And WXYT’s Jeff Riger, whose job is to instigate a little controversy from time to time to generate, well, sports talk on 97.1 the Ticket, gets downright confrontational regarding the Wings’ tendency to…obfuscate information:
At about 11:40 in the morning I got a call from Khang, the Karsch and Anderson producer telling me that there is a rumor claiming that Henrik Zetterberg is out for the remainder of the year, including the postseason with a torn ACL in his left knee and he wanted to know what I knew about it. I made some calls, and nobody could substantiate the rumor so I headed down to the Joe to see what is up with one of the Wings best players? As I walked into the dressing room, the media was huddled around Kris Draper and by the tone of his voice and the words he was using, the first thought I had was that the rumor was true and that Zetterberg was indeed out for the remainder of the year. So I asked Draper, and he squashed the question pretty quickly saying he knew nothing and that any talk about the length of injury would have to come from the training staff or Mike Babcock.
After Draper finished talking different members of the media gathered around various members of the team while I went to the center of the room and proceeded to wait for Babcock to conduct his daily press conference. While I was waiting I noticed that not only was Zetterberg in the room, but he was working out with a giant knee brace on his left leg. Zetterberg seemed to have no difficulty doing chest exercises however when he stood up and walked I could tell that he wasn’t going to be skating anytime soon.
Babcock seemed very defensive when he started to talk about Zetterberg, forced by reporters to repeat the fact that “Z” was out for the remainder of the regular season which consists of 2 more games against the Blackhawks and then was “day to day” during the postseason. Babcock would not give details to the injury saying it was “a lower body” issue and that he did expect Zetterberg to play sometime in the playoffs. When asked why he is so confident that number 40 would play he said “I know everything” and then he backed down and repeated the fact that he would be “day to day.”
Finally Zetterberg himself stepped to the podium and talked to the media and let on that he did not need surgery and that the results of the MRI were better then he suspected. Zetterberg claimed that he has had a similar injury before in his career and he was scared because this time it hurt more than the last time. When asked if the term “sprain” could describe what Zetterberg was going through, he once again brought up that “lower body term” but did say he expects to play in the playoffs at some point. I asked him if “day to day” can turn into something much longer and Zetterberg said “depends, it could be day by day by day by day, but it’s still day by day.”
So there it is a detailed description of my attempt to find out how serious the injury to Henrik Zetterberg is. What do you think? Watch the Draper, Babcock and Zetterberg videos below and you tell me if you think he will see time in the playoffs? If I were to speculate, I think that something in Zetterberg’s knee is torn but he will try to play through it and see how successful he can be. Something however that is not speculation is if Zetterberg plays the chances of hoisting the Stanley Cup are about 100 percent more likely than if he doesn’t, but I think you knew that already!
If you haven’t seen ‘em already, here are Babcock’s and Zetterberg’s pressers, via the Red Wings’ website…
Take Riger’s comments for what you will. I think Zetterberg himself said it best—nobody’s at 100% at this time of year—and while I’m not in the prediction department, something tells me that we’re going to see #40 and #55 in the lineup come the Wings’ first playoff game next Wednesday or Thursday.
Chris Chelios also gave his usual Friday Chelios Report to WDFN’s Sean Baligian and Killer Kowalski a day early as Cheli’s Chili will host more than a few fans for the Tigers’ opener on Friday afternoon, and I don’t feel like sitting on this interview, either:
Update: There is an official official line regarding Zetterberg, from Ken Holland, via USA Today’s Kevin Allen, and it clarifies absolutely nothing:
The Detroit Red Wings are heading toward the playoffs uncertain about when leading scorer Henrik Zetterberg will be back in their lineup after he suffered a lower body injury during a 3-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday.
General manager Ken Holland didn’t reveal Zetterberg’s exact injury, but he said an MRI showed there was no significant injury.
“But we don’t know when he will be back,” Holland said. “We know he won’t play the final two games of the regular season, and then he’s day-to-day.”
The Red Wings’ Chris Osgood and Niklas Kronwall also are out with injuries; both are due back soon.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.