DETROIT — He received a hero’s welcome when he stepped onto the ice at Joe Louis Arena Thursday night. The fans were excited to see captain Henrik Zetterberg back in the Red Wings lineup, believing he could be the difference despite playing his first game since Feb. 12 for Team Sweden in the Sochi Olympics.
He played 19 minutes, 34 seconds over 29 shifts and although he started out gangbusters on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Justin Abdelkader, Zetterberg’s long layoff caught up with him as the game moved into the third period and overtime of the Red Wings’ 3-2 loss to the Bruins in Game 4.
“Obviously, it was fun to be back,’’ said Zetterberg. “It would be a lot more fun to have a ‘W’ but I’m just going to move onto Boston here and go and play a good game.’’
He said fatigue became an issue in the latter stages.
“I played a lot better before [the back surgery on Feb. 21],’’ he said. “It’s going to be better, too, [as time goes on]. I think I felt good until halfway through the second, then I started to have really short shifts. But that’s the way it is. I had this first game and hopefully I’ll feel better and better.’’
His teammates certainly appreciated his contribution.
“I thought he was awesome,’’ said defenseman Niklas Kronwall. “He give us an element that, of course, we don’t have without him. He’s our captain, he’s our leader for a reason. I thought he was great out there. He’s been out for two months and I still thought he was one of our best players. It says a lot about him as a player and a person.’’
Goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, who was a last-minute replacement for Jimmy Howard (flu-like symptoms), said he witnessed firsthand how happy the fans were to see Zetterberg.
“It was really exciting,’’ he said. “I pretty much stepped on the ice at the same time, I was behind him. It was kind of fun to go out and hear the crowd like that. He deserves it.’’
Coach Mike Babcock said it was predictable Zetterberg wouldn’t be able to maintain his early pace given his long layoff.
“We knew that would probably be the case,’’ said the coach. “I thought that line had good jump early, I thought our power play [which went 1 for 4] was really dangerous early. As the game went on, I didn’t think we were as dangerous anymore.’’
Alfredsson out again
Daniel Alfredsson, who missed Game 3 with a recurring back issue, is on the mend and should be ready to go on Saturday for Game 5 in Boston. It’s possible he could have suited up for Game 4, but at 41 years old, it seemed a wise decision to give him additional rest. “We’re trying to put the best lineup on the ice to help us win,” said Babcock . . . Veteran Todd Bertuzzi played his first game of the series, inserted in the lineup in place of Tomas Jurco. The big-bodied Bertuzzi gave the Red Wings a net-front presence they had been lacking all series. Bertuzzi played 12:50 of ice time and had six hits . . . Justin Abdelkader had a game-high nine thumps . . . Kronwall’s power play goal at the 11-minute mark of the first period was the Red Wings’ first on the man advantage in the series (1 for 13) . . . Kronwall and his girlfriend welcomed a son, Douglas, on Thursday at 11:31 a.m., a day after teammate Pavel Datsyuk and his wife welcomed a daughter.