Zetterberg meets with national media
Wings star forward shares his thoughts about returning to Mellon this week
This Sunday, he and the Red Wings will meet the Pittsburgh Penguins at Mellon Arena. It will be the first time that Detroit has returned to Pittsburgh since last June 4, when they captured the Stanley Cup, and Zetterberg was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff's most valuable player.
Sunday's game is NBC's Game of the Week and will be played at 12:30 p.m. ET.
QUESTION: When you play in Pittsburgh on Sunday, are you surprised at the struggles they're having this season, especially thinking to how close the series was last spring?
ZETTERBERG: Well, you know, they have a good team. When they're playing good, they should be higher than they are in the standings.
But still it's real tight, so I'm pretty confident after 82 games they will be in a playoff spot. When you're in the playoffs, anything can happen.
Q: How did you feel yesterday playing, getting back on the ice?
ZETTERBERG: I felt good. I was glad to be back. My back felt good. It was fun playing again.
Q: Regarding goaltenders that you've faced this year, who has been the toughest and why?
ZETTERBERG: Well, the toughest goaltender we faced this year? You know what, I will say Columbus.
Q: Steve Mason?
ZETTERBERG: Yes. He's been playing very well against us. We have them a few more times here, and I think that will be the toughest goaltender so far.
Q: Have the Jackets really surprised you? They've been holding their own this season.
ZETTERBERG: Yeah, they've been playing good. They've been playing solid games altogether, and they are working hard. When they have good goaltending, it makes it a lot easier for them.
Q: Obviously you play in an organization that's no stranger to winning Cups. Last season was the first one you won personally. Have you found anything tough about defending the Cup, anything you didn't expect maybe?
ZETTERBERG: Well, I think just that you played so long last year. With the short summer, you're right back in it again. I think for us it's been tough in the beginning. A few games, it's been tough to find the momentum from the beginning. A few games we've been down a few goals right away, and it's tough to win games that way.
I think that's the biggest issue we had this year, you know, just to be ready from the start. But lately I think we've been playing better, playing better for 60 minutes.
Q: Does the term "playoff experience" get tossed around too much, turning it on when it really matters, because there is so much playoff experience in that room?
ZETTERBERG: For sure it's nice to have all the players that been around for a long, long time. They've been winning Cups, they've been going deep in the playoffs.
For us younger players, who hasn't been there for many years, it's been real nice to have them to kind of lean back to. If you have any questions or any concerns, you just go with them and follow them.
Q: Do you think a team can just turn it on, even a team like you? Can you turn it on from March 15th to April 1st and be ready for a playoff, or does it have to start at this point, February 5th, where we are now?
ZETTERBERG: You can't just turn it on. You have to prepare yourself. I think you do that in the games before the playoffs start. It gets tighter and tighter in the standings. Games get kind of more and more intense.
So I think you automatically prepare yourself for the playoffs because the games are more like playoff games.
Q: You signed the contract. It's been a little over a week now. Do you feel any extra weight with the burden of a 12-year contract?
ZETTERBERG: Not really. Kind of have the same role I had a week ago or two weeks ago. You play a lot. Of course, it's a lot of pressure. Playing in Detroit, the bar is real high. That's the way it's supposed to be. Expectations are high. Expectations are real high inside the locker room, too. We like it that way. If we lose a game, we get real pissed off. You just want to get back and win the next one.
Q: Do you have any concerns with the Wings this year or are you pretty happy right now?
ZETTERBERG: We're second in the West. I think we've been playing OK. A few games maybe we could play a little bit better. But we have a few things that we, for sure, can do better. We're working on it. Thirty-some games before the playoffs start. We're just going to get ourselves ready for a good run again.
Q: Tell me what Marian Hossa has been like as a teammate.
ZETTERBERG: He's been a tremendous addition for us. He's one of those guys that really can turn nothing into a goal. He's a really strong skater, really fast, has a great shot. He's a great guy, too. He's been a great fit for us. Hopefully we can find a way to keep him a little bit longer.
Q: What stands out in your mind about those games at Mellon Arena in the finals, anything in particular?
ZETTERBERG: You mean last year?
Q: Yes, the games at Mellon Arena, what stands out in your mind?
ZETTERBERG: I will say the fans. It was just a great atmosphere going in and playing there. It was good hockey games. It was tough. It was really tough all the way till the end. A few seconds, a few inches would have tied it up Game 6. The last seven seconds there, it's probably the one thing that really stands out for me.
Q: Do you have a favorite day of the week that you like to play on?
ZETTERBERG: I like the weekends. I like the afternoon games. It nice to play then. I think the fans enjoy it, too. In the weekends, I think you should have more afternoon games than late night games. We have a few now this month. I'm looking forward to that.
Q: Peter Forsberg was back on the ice. Did you expect that to happen?
ZETTERBERG: Yes, I did. I think he wanted to get back playing. Unfortunately his body is a little banged up. Hopefully he can get himself back playing again.
He's that kind of player that you want to see. You want to see him on the ice. Hopefully he can get back and have a good Olympic year next year.
Q: Would you have made the same decision if you were him?
ZETTERBERG: You know, it's tough to say. It's up to him. I'm pretty sure he made the right decision for himself. I wish him all the best. I wish to see him getting back healthy.
Q: Johan Franzen, are you surprised with his development over the last calendar year or did you expect it?
ZETTERBERG: Well, I always knew he was a good player. I don't think he got an opportunity to play like he has been the last, I would say, year. You know, he played more often. He played power-play. He's just a big guy, really strong, really good hands, good shot. I'm not surprised that he's doing well.
It's well-deserved. He's working hard every day. That's one more guy you want to keep for a long time here.
Q: Regarding the contract, why not wait till July 1st to see what was out there? Why do it now instead of waiting to play the market a little bit?
ZETTERBERG: Well, I think I made my decision a long time ago. When we started talking July 1st, I told my agent, Mark Levine, that I want to stay. You don't have to tell Ken (Holland) that right away, but I want to stay, just find a way. Have to find a deal that works for both of us.
I've been there for all my career. They've been really good to me, taken good care of me. I didn't see a reason to wait for the open market 'cause I didn't want to go anywhere else.