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Wings face elimination Saturday afternoon in Boston after falling 3-2 in OT

DETROIT >> For the first 25 minutes of Thursday night’s Game 4 at Joe Louis Arena, the Detroit Red Wings road the boost of energy they got from the return of their captain Henrik Zetterberg.

Then the tables turned from that point heavily in the Boston Bruins’ favor.

And because of it the Bruins now hold a commanding 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference best-of-seven series first round series and could advance with a win Saturday afternoon in Boston after their 3-2 overtime win over the Wings.

“I thought they got better as the game went on,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I thought we had a real good push at the start, but they stuck with it and as the game went on we had more holes in us defensively. We hang around, hang around and then in the third and overtime when the game was tilted.”

It was Zetterberg’s first game since undergoing successful surgery on Feb. 21 to remove part of a disc which was rubbing against a nerve.

Jonas Gustavsson was the unexpected starter in goal after Jimmy Howard came down with the flu. Howard led the team out on the ice for pre-game warmups as if he was starting. He however was unable to sit on the bench during the game.

It was Gustavsson’s second unexpected start against the Bruins this season. He led the Wings to a 3-2 win over Boston after Howard suffered a bruised hand during an earlier game. In that start, Howard also led the team on the ice for warmups.

Babcock said he knew Zetterberg’s return would give the team a boost.

“We knew that would probably be the case,” Babcock said. “That line had good jump early. I thought out power play was really dangerous early. I don’t think as the game went on we were as dangerous anymore. To me I didn’t know if we had a lot of good players, especially out of our young guys, when I go through and look at them, I’m not like he had a great game, he had a great game at all. They were dressed.”

With six minutes and 28 seconds left in overtime, Jarome Iginla got a piece of Dougie Hamilton’s shot from the point to beat Jonas Gustavsson with six minutes and 28 seconds left in overtime.

Torey Krug and Milan Lucic also scored for Boston and Tuukka Rask made 35 saves.

Niklas Kronwall and Pavel Datsyuk scored for Detroit and Gustavsson stopped 37 shots.

“I think he was shooting to my left side,” Gustavsson said of the game winner. “I think it deflected, then it hit a leg and goes in. It’s a playoff goal. That’s how you win games, you put the puck in the net, get rebounds or deflections. That’s the way it is. We just have to do the same thing to them and hopefully we get the game winner next time.”

The Wings had a 2-0 lead in the game five minutes into the second period.

“We played a pretty good game,” Gustavsson said. “We played the way we need to be successful. I think we can still improve. I think the guys did a good job. We were up 2-0 and those are the games you want to win when you score two goals, but the big thing for us is to get the positives from this game and take it into the next game and come out with a victory.”

Trailing 2-1 heading into the third, the Bruins tied the game just a minute and 15 seconds in when a wide-open Lucic deposited a pass from behind the net by Carl Soderberg.

Brad Marchand could have put the Bruins up just past the midway point of the period, but the forward missed his second wide-open net of the game and third of the series.

The Wings doubled their lead before the five-minute mark of the second on Datsyuk’s second tally of the playoffs. Kronwall gloved down a rebound behind the net and fed a short soft pass to Datsyuk and he calmly put the puck into the open net.

Krug got Boston on the board with a power play goal with two seconds left in Todd Bertuzzi’s interference penalty that negated a Wings man advantage. Patrice Bergeron won a draw back to Krug and his one-timer beat Gustavsson.

Earlier in the period, Gustavsson stoned Gregory Campbell’s pointblank shot early in the second period.

The Wings didn’t take long to strike on their first power play of the net as Kronwall blasted one in from the point four seconds into a double minor to Justin Florek for high sticking Drew Miller.

After a faceoff win from Pavel Datsyuk, Bertuzzi setup in front of Rask before Kronwall fired it home.

The Wings were 0-for-9 with the man advantage prior to that goal.

It was also Detroit’s first goal in the first period in the series.

The goal was just Kronwall’s fifth in his postseason career and first since 2011. Four of his five goals have come on the power play.

Boston had two quality chances to score in the first period, one by Reilly Smith, who hit the post after splitting the Wings’ defense, and the other by Marchand.

The winner of this series will face Montreal, which swept Tampa Bay, in the next round.

Baby names

DETROIT >> Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall are both new fathers.

Datsyuk welcomed in his second child, a girl, named Vasilisa Datsyuk.

Kronwall greeted his first, a boy, named Douglas Kronwall.

Quote of the day … Wings coach Mike Babcock

DETROIT >> Wings coach Mike Babcock opened up his morning meeting with the media by a follow up to a statement he made Wednesday regarding the birth and pending birth of newborns for two players on his team … Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall.

“I would assume that they’re both playing (Datsyuk and Kronwall),” Babcock said Wednesday. “They’re not giving birth. Their wives are. One has and one is.”

Datsyuk just had a daughter, while Kronwall’s girlfriend is expecting to give birth soon.

“Just before we get started I got an email from my wife that said I’m not allowed to say the things that I said yesterday about giving birth,” Babcock smiled on Thursday. “So I apologize. I said I didn’t realize you guys were that sensitive. So I’ll clear it up today.”

Alfredsson could be ready for Game 5 Saturday in Boston

DETROIT >> Daniel Alfredsson will miss his second straight playoff game due to a problem with his back.

Wings coach Mike Babcock said Alfredsson, who has no points and no shots in goals in two games in this series with Boston, could be ready for Game 5 on Saturday back in Boston.

“Alfredsson is feeling better and the trainers told me that he should be ready to go by Saturday,” Babcock said. “I mean, could you throw him in the game? Probably. He hasn’t practiced in a while and we don’t really know. We’re trying to put the best lineup that we can on the ice to help us win.”

Boston’s Claude Julien expects they’ll see Zetterberg back in the Wings’ lineup

DETROIT >> Some stuff from Boston coach Claude Julien on the possible return to Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg to the lineup for Game 4.

“We can’t just worry about one player,” Julien said. “We fully expect him to be in there tonight. We expected that. The biggest thing is they have another real good player on their team. We’re not aware of where he is in his conditioning, but at the same time every playoff game has to be about your team. You make adjustments to play against the other team not just an individual. That’s not going to change for us.”

Zetterberg began skating with the team last Thursday after undergoing successful surgery on Feb. 21 to remove part of a disc which was rubbing against a nerve, which caused severe back pain.

“I think we always kept a close eye on (Pavel) Datsyuk,” Julien said. “It’s not one guy we’re looking at necessarily we look at it as a group. We’ll be aware on the ice when he’s there. I don’t get last change so we might not always get the perfect matchup, but our team puts trust in being able to play together and work together to slow these guys down.”

Bertuzzi will make his playoff debut in Game 4; Juro and Andersson out

DETROIT >> The status of Henrik Zetterberg for Game 4 Thursday night won’t be known until game time, but there’s one player that’s for sure making his playoff debut … Todd Bertuzzi.

Bertuzzi is replacing Tomas Jurco in the lineup.

“Well, he’s a big, heavy body,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “It’s interesting, you’re talking about scoring goals, to me, the things that they did better than us was they played better defense than us. They kept us on the outside, they were quicker, they skate us.”

Since winning Game 1, 1-0, the Wings have been outscored by the Boston Bruins 7-1.

“We talk about being quicker than them, they were quicker than us the last game for sure,” Babcock said. “They were harder and more detailed to play against. We weren’t any of those things so we need to be good defensively. If we’re good defensively we’ll have the puck way more than we did last game. Last game we lost the puck all the time, we were random on our sort-outs, we weren’t hard to play against. If you don’t play well without it you don’t have it very much and you don’t get to play with it.”

Bertuzzi will skate with Riley Sheahan and Tomas Tatar.

Jurco had no points, six shots and was a minus-1 in the first three games of the series, averaging just under 13 minutes of ice time.

“It was three kids playing together and it wasn’t going as well I would have liked,” Babcock said. “I didn’t think we spent enough time in the offensive zone with that group and I’m hoping that one veteran player can help them out. In saying that, we’re taking out Jurco who’s got great speed and plays real well and why would you do that? You know what, that’s a good question and I asked myself that one hundred times yesterday and then just before I started to fall asleep I was thinking about it again. So I didn’t sleep well. I don’t know. I’m trying to do the right thing.”

In 86 career playoff games, Bertuzzi has 14 goals and 28 assists.

“I’m just going to go in there and do what I can to help out,” Bertuzzi said. “It’s a completely different season compared to regular season. It’s exciting, it’s fun. The city is involved, especially being a little bit older you appreciate it a little bit more.”

However in the Wings’ last two playoff run he’s got no points and is a minus-7 in 11 games.

“You got to be a team player, no point in complaining or being a bad teammate around the guys,” Bertuzzi said when asked if it’s tough sitting out. “You’ve got to support them and prepare yourself to get in.”

Bertuzzi played with his two linemates in the regular season finale in St. Louis.

“I’m comfortable with them, I like playing with them,” Bertuzzi said. “They’re fun, they’re high-tempo, they hold onto the puck, it’s all about puck possession. I’m just going to try to create some space for them.”

Joakim Andersson is the other healthy scratch.

Brendan Smith: “But to get Z back is like getting an ace in your deck when you’re playing cards.”

DETROIT >> It’s still not official, but all signs point to Henrik Zetterberg returning to the Detroit Red Wings lineup Thursday night against the Boston Bruins.

Wings officials said Zetterberg was on his way to see his doctor and would not be able to speak to the media about his status for Game 4 of the Wings’ Eastern Conference best-of-seven opening round series with the Bruins.

But many of his teammates talked like they would have their captain back in the lineup.

“The fans are definitely going to erupt,” Brendan Smith said Thursday. “They should. I erupt when I see him on the ice, imagine what the fans will be like. He’s a fan favorite. He’s well spoken. He’s humble. He’s one of the best players. It’s going to be cool and good for everybody. We have to channel it in the right direction and towards the game.

“You saw what last year’s playoffs were like with him, so I suspect it will be very similar,” Smith added. “He’s one of the guys we feed off of, he’s a leader, he’s our captain and he does everything right and he plays both ends of the ice. Obviously if we can get him back it will be huge for our squad. It would be awesome. We’ve done well without him and I think the biggest thing for us right now is for us to play our system and that will help us out a lot more. But to get Z back is like getting an ace in your deck when you’re playing cards. Anytime you get your captain back it’s a huge bonus.”

“He’s a competitor,” Darren Helm said. “He’s going to come out with a performance that can hopefully spark this team.

“Everybody’s kind of feeling that excitement, too,” Helm continued. “He’s been out for a while, you can tell he’s extremely happy to be back, we’re all extremely happy that he has a chance to play tonight. It’ll be great if he gets a chance to play.”

Zetterberg began skating with the team last Thursday after undergoing successful surgery on Feb. 21 to remove part of a disc which was rubbing against a nerve, which caused severe back pain.

Zetterberg took the morning skate and was on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Justin Abdelkader.

“He looked great, he’s been looking really good for the last little and it would be huge boost getting our captain back, kind of unexpectedly,” Abdelkader said. “Hopefully, he’s ready to go, but we’ll have to find out.”

He never ruled out the possibility of returning in the first round of the playoffs, but the target always seemed to be the second round. The Wings trail Boston in the series 2-1.

“He’s been feeling good, I think he’s kind of raring to go, it’s just when he gets the clearance,” Abdelkader said. “He’s excited.”

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

“I asked him this morning he said he was going to the doctor,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “But because we were even talking about it I put him on a line, I put him on the power play, and the doctors decide not me. So I’m hopeful. We’ll know at game time after warm-ups.”

He was on the first power play unit with Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Todd Bertuzzi, who’ll be making his playoff debut, and Niklas Kronwall.

“I think he’s overshadowed me a little bit,” smiled Bertuzzi, who’s replacing Tomas Jurco in the lineup. “Listen, Z’s captain for a reason. He carries the torch around here and he leads by example. Obviously, the guys have done a great job while he’s been out but at the same time it’s a huge hole when he’s not in the lineup. I think the power play is going to be that much more effective and we’ll be tougher to play against.”

Despite playing in just 45 of the Wings’ 82 games this season, Zetterberg finished tied for third on the team in points with 48.

“Z would be a huge impact for us and maybe he’s the guy who can bring more offense to the team and spread the lines out a little bit more,” Tomas Tatar said. “I would be really excited to have him back.

“When you’re injured, you’re practicing hard, you’re trying to get ready, you’re in the gym, you do lots of stuff to make sure you’re ready when you get back,” Tatar continued. “I know the start can be rough, but at the same time, you can start really hot, too. You’ve just got to go with the wave. It all depends on how the game will go. You can’t expect one game to change the whole game, but it the teammates are helping, it’s a start.”

Zetterberg, 33, missed 11 games in December with a 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.

Zetterberg in for Game 4 tonight against Boston … at least that’s how it appears

DETROIT >> After 24 hours of speculating, Henrik Zetterberg appears to be in the lineup for Game 4 against the Boston Bruins

Zetterberg began the morning skate on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Justin Abdelkader.

Todd Bertuzzi also appears to be in the lineup, replacing Tomas Jurco.

Zetterberg was on a power play unit with his same Johan Franzen, Datsyuk, Todd Bertuzzi and Niklas Kronwall.

After practice Wednesday, Zetterberg said the decision to return was up to the doctors.

“The good thing is (the decision’s) not in my corner,” Zetterberg said after practice Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena. “I’ve got to be cleared by the doctor. I’ve got to do all those exams. I’m just preparing myself to get into better and better shape, try and get as much game like situations as I can in practice. Today was a good day of that.

“This is just part of the process,” Zetterberg added. “The more I amp stuff up in the gym and on the ice now we just have to wait and see the reactions. If I don’t feel any setbacks or don’t feel anything bad that’s when I’ll probably start that conversation, but still this was the first practice I’ve really had where I’ve been in all the drills and skating a line.”

Zetterberg began practicing with the team last Thursday.

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

He hadn’t ruled out possibly returning in the first round of the playoffs, but it appeared like he would likely come back if the Wings advance to the next round.

That appears to not be the case anymore.

“I have to feel ready to play,” Zetterberg said Wednesday. “Today was a good step in practicing. We’re still saying round two, but we all know we gained a couple days. I can’t really say anything now. I’m just happy I had my first real skate and now we’ll see how I feel in the morning.”

Despite playing in just 45 of the Wings’ 82 games this season, Zetterberg finished tied for third on the team in points with 48 and led the team with a plus-19.

“It’s tough to find good practices in the playoffs,” Zetterberg said. “You don’t practice. You only play games. So one of these days you just have to make a decision. The conditioning you’ll get when you play games. It’s tough when you’re skating on your own because you won’t get the same thing. Once I feel good enough to see if I’m cleared that’s probably when I’ll be playing games. I’m going to have still go through a few more steps before I have that conversation.”

Zetterberg, 33, missed 11 games in December with a 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.

“I think he’s looking great out there since he started skating,” Tomas Tatar said. “He’d be a big power boost for us. That would be really good and really helpful, but I don’t know how far away he is. I don’t have any updates. I just know he looks really good out there.”

“He’s our captain, our leader, huge boost,” Gustav Nyquist said. “I don’t have a timetable so I don’t know if it’s possible he’ll be back. I have no idea. But obviously it’s great to see him out there especially when you saw him in that much pain when he first got back from the Olympics. That’s not fun to see a guy you look up to and your leader being hurt like that. So it’s great to see him back.”

Advice for Franzen: “Get on the inside.”

DETROIT >> Wings coach Mike Babcock made one simple statement when asked about Franzen’s struggles,” Get on the inside.”

In his last 21 games, playoffs and regular season, he has one goal, seven assists and a minus-5 rating. In the previous 23 games, he had 13 goals, 16 assists and a plus-14.

Franzen is third on the team in shots on goal through three games with eight.

“Even if I’m not scoring that’s not what I’m doing for this team,” Franzen said on the eve of the first round series with Boston. “It’s not why I go out and play games to score goals. I’ve got a lot of things to do before that. It’s not even fifth on the list, probably, when you go out to a game.”

In his last 30 playoff games since the start of 2011, he has seven goals (one game winner), four assists and a minus-8.

In his previous 51 playoff games from 2008-2010, he had 31 goals (nine game winners), 28 assists and a plus-29.

Paternity leave

DETROIT >> Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall missed practice due to the arrival or soon-to-be arrival of newborns.

“I would assume that they’re both playing,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “They’re not giving birth. Their wives are.”

Datsyuk just had a daughter, while Kronwall’s girlfriend is expecting.

Daniel Alfredsson also missed practice.

With those missing Babcock’s top line consisted of Justin Abdelkader, Henrik Zetterberg and Todd Bertuzzi. The second line consisted of Tomas Jurco, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Tatar, while Darren Helm centered Johan Franzen and Gustav Nyquist on the third line. The fourth line had Luke Glendening centering David Legwand and Drew Miller, with Joakim Andersson rotating in.

Xavier Ouellet was recalled from Grand Rapids and was paired with Brendan Smith.