Have the Olympics doomed the Detroit Red Wings’ playoff chances?

Detroit Red Wings

Henrik Zetterberg might miss the rest of the regular season

Detroit Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg may miss the rest of the regular season due to a herniated disc in his back. Swedish team doctor Bjorn Waldeback originally ruled Zetterberg out for the remainder of the Sochi Olympics last Thursday, just one day after Zetterberg scored the game-winning goal in Sweden’s 4-2 victory over the Czech Republic.

Medically, the decision to rule him out was deemed “obvious” by team doctors and Zetterberg will go under further evaluation upon his return to the United States. Whether or not he will be able to return the Wings’ lineup this season will be determined following his evaluations, but the likelihood that he will be able to does not seem promising.¬†Waldeback went on to say that in his eyes, if the degree of the injury stays the same then Zetterberg will miss the remainder of the season.

Zetterberg has constantly battled back injuries since 2008, and as recently as last month. He had previously missed 13 games with a slightly herniated disc in December and January. Rest and treatment has allowed Detroit’s leading goal-scorer to play through the injury so far this season but if the injury is severe enough, surgery may be the last form of treatment to get him to full health.

Gustav Nyquist’s most recent production can be credited to him playing alongside Zetterberg, leading him to tally nine goals and four assists in the last ten games. Mike Babcock’s top line of Zetterberg, Nyquist, and Justin Abdelkader has produced the majority of the Red Wings’ goals during Pavel Datsyuk’s 14-game absence. After finally finding great chemistry between those on his first line, Babcock might need to get back to the drawing board.

Detroit is currently sitting in eighth place of the Eastern Conference, barely holding on to the second wild card position. The Red Wings’ chances of finishing third place or higher in the Atlantic division do not look good. As of now, Detroit (64 points) trails the Toronto Maple Leafs (70), Montreal Canadiens (70),¬†Tampa Bay Lightning (71), and Boston Bruins (78) for the division lead.

Even though Datsyuk looks to be completely healthy and has played well in the Olympics thus far, the Wings’ playoff chances may be ruined if Zetterberg is unable to return. Detroit has had an injury-plagued season and is lucky to even have control of a playoff spot, one more devastating injury could easily get in the way of a postseason berth.

Detroit will return from the Olympic break on February 26, and will play back-to-back road games against the Canadiens and Ottawa Senators. Whatever the final decision on Zetterberg may be, the Red Wings need to catch stride immediately following the break as their lead in the wild card standings is just one point.

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