Zetterberg still has a goal of returning by playoffs: “I want to play hockey again this year.”

DETROIT >> Detroit Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg wanted to get a head start on his playoff beard.

That’s a very good sign for a team that’s battling to extend its postseason streak to 23 consecutive appearances.

Zetterberg addressed the media for the first time since he underwent successful surgery on Feb. 21 in New York to remove part of a disc which was rubbing against a nerve, which caused severe back pain.

“That’s the goal,” Zetterberg said when asked if he’ll return by the playoffs. “I want to play hockey again this year. Obviously, that would be sometime in the playoffs, so I might as well get a head start (on playoff beard).

“We want to make the playoffs and whenever we’re in the playoffs it’s the best time of the year,” Zetterberg added. “We went through this last year, too, and the guys are doing a great job. They’re battling. We know what we have to do. We have to win games. I don’t like sitting and watching from the outside, so the games are pretty tough and I’d rather be in there to play.”

Zetterberg has been sidelined since the Winter Olympics after playing just one game with Sweden.

Despite playing in just 45 of the Wings’ 72 games this season, Zetterberg leads the team in points (48) and plus-minus (plus-19).

“It was something that I don’t want to go through again,” Zetterberg said. “The only good thing was that I had 24 guys around me and they really took good care of me. I’ve got to give (Gustav Nyquist) a lot of credit for being my roommate (in Russia) and helping me out there for a week. But obviously it was nice to finally get on that plane and knew that going through the surgery most of the pain was gone right after.”

Zetterberg described his pain level as to what Todd Bertuzzi had to go through last season with his back.

“I’ve never saw or felt that before,” Zetterberg said. “When I was lying there in Russia, I knew what Bert went through. It was tough. It was hard. The first 3-4 days was not good at all, but after that we found a way to make things better. I think maybe day five or six it happened, I kind of turned the corner and finally felt good enough to fly.”

There is still no timetable yet on when he’ll be back on the ice skating.

“I’ve been moving a lot more the last two weeks,” Zetterberg said. “I’ve just got to take it step-by-step and so far no hiccups. It’s just got to stay that way.”

Zetterberg, who was able to attend Nicklas Lidstrom’s number retirement at Joe Louis Arena on March 6, said that the moment he woke from surgery the pain was gone in his back.

“I think the timeline is eight weeks without contact, that’s what the doctors say and that’s what we’re going to stick with, and then we’ll re-evaluate after that,” Zetterberg said. “I think that’s around April 18-19, eight weeks from surgery, and then we got to see where I am.”

The playoffs are set to begin on April 16.

“We showed that last year, so same thing this year, we just got to get in,” Zetterberg said. “It’s going to be a battle for us.”

Zetterberg said he was able to watch the gold medal game that Sweden lost to Russia.

“(Niklas Kronwall) still has (my medal) so I don’t know if they brought it back at all,” Zetterberg smiled. “I haven’t seen it yet.”

Zetterberg, 33, missed 11 games in December with that slightly herniated disc. He also missed two games in January due to it.

Zetterberg began having issues with his back in 2008, which made him miss the All-Star break.

In 2007, he injured his vertebra and missed several weeks.

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