Update (4:37 PM): A few more details have emerged:
First, Zetterberg told Ansar Khan that he hopes to be back in the lineup next week. In the meantime, Matt Ellis will fill in.
Second, the injury is apparently unrelated to his past back problems. Ted Kulfan reports that Zetterberg "said the pain is in the lower back, but is not related to the disc." As George Malik suggests, it's possible this is all strictly due to bruising caused by the hit he took late in the game Saturday.Now we just have to wait and see if he does only miss two games. - Matt
Update (3:40 PM): It's official: Zetterberg will skip the All Star Game for the second year in a row. The NHL has added five players to the Western roster as replacements and Hank is listed as one of the players being replaced.This is good news for the Wings. Zetterberg should be in the Game, but he's showing once again that his priority is the team rather than personal accolades. Hopefully he'll come out of the Break healthy and ready to go. - Matt
We know from last time this happened that Hank deals with back pain on a regular basis and that it is only when it becomes particularly bad that it gets reported. If this higher level of pain becomes a more frequent thing, we have a problem.
Until now, it may have been possible to delude ourselves into thinking this was just one time that the Wings' PR machine let news of a health problem leak prematurely or unnecessarily. Now, however, is a good time to get concerned.
Mario Lemieux played with severe back problems for years. The fact that he at times had to have other people tie his skates is well known. However, it was his cancer and heart problems that forced him to retire (twice).
So, it's not outside the realm of possibility that Zetterberg's career won't end the same way Mickey Redmond's did.
The parallel to Mario may be misplaced, as we can't compare Hank's pain to his, nor do we know their respective pain thresholds, but Lemieux did set a precedent of sorts, I suppose. - Matt
I get the feeling that if this were the playoffs, Henrik Zetterberg would be playing tonight, no question.
That’s the key thing to remember here: The team is being extra cautious because it’s the regular season and they don’t need him to maintain their lead on the League.
On a team so focused on the playoffs, ensuring a manageable level of post-season health is the primary thing. The Wings don’t want to aggravate his back to the point where he’d have to sit out in April, May, or June. I’m sure we’ll see him sitting out more than just the All Star Game so that he gets some necessary rest.
He can play through the pain, but at this point, he does not have to. It’s premature to think his career will be shortened because of this. After all, the Captain dealt with knee issues for years and his career wasn’t shortened a day because of it.
What is for certain is Hank will have to deal with this however long he plays. For now, we should just assume the team is being cautious, rather than overreact by thinking this is an issue on par with Peter Forsberg’s ankle and foot problems.
I’ll say it again: The fact that this latest aggravation began because of a hit on Saturday seems to me to be another argument for keeping Aaron Downey in the lineup, even at the expense of young Tomas Kopecky. I would include Dallas Drake as an optional player, but HockeyTownTodd has pointed out that he brings too much to the defensive table and helps relieve the penalty kill load for the forwards.
That leaves Kopecky as about the only “expendable” forward.
As far as I’m concerned, Downey should be in the lineup every game Zetterberg is. Why? If Downey’s presence causes the opposition to ease up even a little bit, Hank will be better off. Every little bit will help.
The above is me trying to be optimistic. My pessimistic side, however, sees some sense in IwoCPO’s suggestion:
Sure, go ahead and sit him and he won’t aggravate it playing hockey. But, while you’re at it, immobilize him completely. Put one of Hasek’s straight jackets on him, put him in John Travolta’s plastic bubble (oh…look out. You don’t remember the “Boy In the Plastic Bubble”? Classic.) Seal him up until the playoffs. No movement whatsoever.
When you read that he hurt his back last month “while picking up his laundry bag,” (my emphasis) you get a little concerned. Does he do his laundry once a month, or what? I know those things can get heavy, but if you do it regularly…
By the way, no GameDay post today. I apologize. Tomorrow should be a different story.