DETROIT >> Quick update from the Detroit Red Wings morning skate before hosting the Washington Capitals at Joe Louis Arena.
Henrik Zetterberg returns to the lineup after missing two games with a reoccurring back issue.
“It’s important to have him back,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Just look at Washington, (Alex Ovechkin) was hurt and suddenly he’s back for two games and he had six points. You know you need your big guys, they keep you calm, they help you stay determined. Zetterberg’s a real team leader for us so it’s important to have him. The rest of us have to play real well obviously but he’s an important piece.”
Zetterberg replaces Daniel Cleary.
Cleary was supposed to a healthy scratch last Sunday before Zetterberg was a last minute scratch due to a bad back.
Zetterberg, who leads the team with 16 goals and 28 assists, missed 11 games in December with a herniated disc.
After sitting out the last four games, Jakub Kindl returns to the lineup as well replacing Brian Lashoff.
“When you’re perceived as an offensive guy you’ve got to be an offensive guy, but in order to be an offensive guy you can’t play in your own zone,” Babcock said. “That’s the big challenge for him obviously. He’s really improved over the years and we think he can help our power play and yet our power play hasn’t generated a lot of points here in the last bit with him on it so other guys got their opportunities back in you’ve got to grab your piece and hang onto it.”
The Wings have lost two in a row, allowing nine goals in the process.
“Hopefully, we can play with a little better structure than we did there (in Philadelphia),” Zetterberg said. “We created some chances but couldn’t score. I think special teams have to be better, especially tonight. We want to stay out of the box, they got a real good power play. Our power play has to get some goals.”
The Capitals are led by Alex Ovechkin, who leads the league with 38 goals. He’s also eighth in points with 55.
Ovechkin was a minus-5 in Washington’s 5-2 loss Thursday to Columbus.
“Well I think anytime a team plays the night before you’re always hoping they go to overtime and it’s a real dog fight to the end,” Babcock said. “To be honest both teams, us and them, just finished giving up five. You go through the pre-scout on a team that gave up five, you’re not very impressed. Both of us need to bounce back and as you look at the standings, it’s not too hard to figure out how important these games are. We play them home-and-home and this is a big series for us and a big series for them. So whether they played last night or didn’t play last night it’s a huge game for us we’ve got to be ready to go.”
In nine career games against Detroit, Ovechkin has eight goals and five assists. He’s also got a plus/minus of 0.
“I think for him it’s going to be a little bit tougher to move on from a game like that because he’s a competitor and that makes it tougher on us,” Brendan Smith said. “He’s a little more fired up, he wants to redeem himself and he’s probably hearing it a lot from over there about being minus-5. So when you have competitors like that they try to prove that it was fluke or it was an off night or whatever the reason is.
“I just know it’s going to be tougher for us and that means not only is he scoring, now he’s making more plays because he was to change that plus/minus, that means he’s a little upset so you have to keep your head up,” Smith continued. “He’s dangerous in a lot of different categories so that means he might play a little tougher defensively, back-checking even more so. He might have a huge game and it’s something that we have to be aware of.”
Tonight is the first of a home-and-home series between the Wings and Capitals.
The rematch is Sunday in Washington at 12:30 p.m.
The Capitals won the only other meeting this season on Nov. 15, a 4-3 shootout.