DETROIT >> The chance of Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg being ready to play in the first round of the playoffs seems highly unlikely.
But having the series begin on Friday leaves a glimmer of hope he could return sometime in the best-of-seven series.
“We were always shooting for Round 2, but we have two extra days now,” Zetterberg said. “If it’s just before that I will be happy. It’s still a ways away. I’m doing well, happy to be back skating here.”
The Wings thought their first round series with Boston was going to start Thursday.
Zetterberg was supposed to skate on Tuesday with the team, but now that’s pushed back to Thursday. He did skate on his own prior to the team taking the ice.
“There are still a lot of things that need to fall in place,” Zetterberg said. “Up until now everything in the rehab has gone good. Now hopefully Thursday I’ll skate a little bit with the team and keep making progress every day.
“I haven’t skated a lot,” Zetterberg said. “This phase, being on the ice more, skate more, being involved more with the team, is going to decide when I come back. It’s impossible to say now if it’s Round 2 or if it’s before. There are a lot of things that need to happen, but so far everything has been good and we just have to keep taking it day by day.”
Zetterberg 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.
Friday marks eight weeks for when Zetterberg can start having contact on the ice.
“You can do a lot of stuff in the gym, you can run, jump, but as soon as you step on the ice and have a pair of skates on and there are other people around you, that’s going to decide a lot,” Zetterberg said. “I’ve been skating by myself for a while, been feeling good and now it’s time to take the next step.”
Asked if he didn’t want to test his back against the hulking Zdeno Chara, Zetterberg said it was the Bruins defenseman that lent him a hand on the flight back from the Olympics.
“Chara was actually the guy that helped me with my bag at the Olympics,” Zetterberg recalled. “So he’s part of this rehab. When we flew home from the Olympics, I was walking out and had a backpack with me and he said you’re not carrying that so he carried it for me. He’s one of the best defensemen in the league and he’s a great guy.”
Zetterberg has been sidelined since the Winter Olympics after playing just one game with Sweden and watched as the Red Wings qualified for the playoffs a 23rd consecutive season without him.
“I’m happy I’m watching them in the playoffs,” Zetterberg said. “There are worse things that I could watch. You want to be playing. Today we had our first playoff meeting. This is the best time of the year. When you go through the regular season this is where you want to be and we’re here now. We’re facing a really good team and we have to play good hockey to move on.”
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.
“I’m very proud, just seeing the guys step up, different guys every night,” Zetterberg said. “It’s amazing we kept the streak going. I don’t think a lot of people believed that going into the Olympic break and definitely not after, but we found a way. That’s what we do.
“In the regular season I tried to stay away as much as I could,” Zetterberg added. “We still have a lot of leaders in this room, core guys that have been around. Now that I’m around, part of the skates and travel with the team and then hopefully be playing later.”
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.