There are plenty of reasons why the Detroit Red Wings have managed to score only two goals in their three games against the Boston Bruins. The B's smothering defense. The efficient play of goalie Tuukka Rask. The inexperience of Detroit's young forward corps. Pavel Datsyuk playing at less than 100 percent.
Oh, and they've been playing without their leading scorer.
Not much the Wings can do about the first four, but that last one? According to Ken Campbell of The Hockey News, that will change tonight.
A source close to the Red Wings said Henrik Zetterberg has been cleared to play tonight, after missing the last 30 games (including playoffs) and all but one game of the Olympics with a back injury. The source said Zetterberg will likely play only “limited minutes,” somewhere in the range of 10 to 12, but even that will be a massive upgrade for a Red Wings team that is reeling with injuries and has been outscored by the Bruins 7-1 in the past two games.
Zetterberg skated Wednesday on the Red Wings' top line in place of Datsyuk, who skipped practice because his wife was giving birth, but the captain said he wasn't sure when he would be available to rejoin the team. Now that could have been a bit of gamesmanship or a reflection of his uncertainty over what kind of contribution he is capable of making at this point in his rehabilitation from back surgery.
But you can be sure of this: that 10-to-12 minute plan is likely to mean 15-to-18 unless the Bruins run away with the game early. If Zetterberg's good enough to give it something, he's good enough to give it everything. And if there's a game to be won, he'll get more than power play minutes and spot duty on offensive zone draws.
Zetterberg out up 48 points in the 45 games he played this season, and that's the sort of consistent offensive presence this team needs. The Wings could also use his calming presence to steady a group that includes six forwards who making their NHL playoff debut this spring. Daniel Alfredsson is not expected to play tonight. The veteran missed Game 3 with an upper-body injury and did not practice yesterday. Team trainers told Mike Babcock that Alfredsson could be ready for Game 5 on Saturday.