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Red Wings teammates hopeful for a Zetterberg return

Feb 12, 2017; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Detroit Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg (40) during a game between the Minnesota Wild and Detroit Red Wings at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild defeated the Red Wings 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg has been ailing physically the past few seasons, despite playing in all 82 regular season games three years running. But the pain from his lingering back issues has caused him to not be able to train this entire offseason, and has already announced that he’ll miss this year’s training camp and won’t be available for the beginning of the regular season – and possibly beyond that.

Despite the less than promising outlook, his Red Wings teammates remain hopeful that Zetterberg, who turns 38 on October 9, will be back on the ice with them at some point.

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“He’s battling through it,” fellow Swede Niklas Kronwall said. “Part of me hopes that he sees some doctors now and they can come up with some solutions and that we get him to training camp or train the way he wants to and then just be ready whenever that is.

“You feel for him but at the same time, he has to train to be able to play and compete at this level, regardless of how talented he is. If you can’t train it’s tough to play at this level.”

Another fellow Swedish teammate weighed in on Zetterberg’s resolve following representing their country in the 2014 Winter Olympics.

“He didn’t sleep for the four days he was stuck there because he was in so much pain,” Gus Nyquist said. “It was hard to see a teammate feel like that. Thankfully, he had that surgery and I’ve been really impressed by the way he’s come back from that injury, rehabbing and how hard he works.

“Luckily, that surgery went well enough for him to be able to play for a few years. But it’s got to be a lot of wear and tear, and it’s impressive what he’s done to play all these games.”

With Zetterberg out of the lineup, newly re-signed forward Dylan Larkin will anchor the top center position, with Frans Nielsen centering the second line. But Detroit will be missing more than just Zetterberg’s production (240 points the past four seasons).

“He’s our leader and he’s still our best player, in my opinion,” Nyquist said. “That’d be a tough loss for us for sure. But, hopefully he can figure out a way here to rehab or something like that and try to get back on the ice.”

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