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Wings optimistic rookie can fill Yzerman void

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

By Ansar Khan

DETROIT -- It isn't taking Detroit Red Wings rookie Henrik Zetterberg long to get accustomed to the NHL. Early indications are it might take the rest of the league a while to get used to defending this immensely talented newcomer.

Zetterberg scored a goal and played a strong all-around game to lead the Wings to a 3-2 exhibition victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs Tuesday in their first game at Joe Louis Arena since winning the Stanley Cup on June 13.

Detroit is 2-0 in the preseason under new head coach Dave Lewis. The Wings dressed about a dozen players who figure to be in their lineup when they open the season on Oct. 10 in San Jose. They dominated the game territorially the first two periods and built a 3-0 lead before Toronto closed the gap with a pair of goals in the third.

Zetterberg, playing left wing on a line with Sergei Fedorov and Darren McCarty, displayed his all-around game. He opened the scoring at 5:55 of the first period by taking a pass from McCarty during a two-on-one and burying the puck into an open net. He played on the power play and killed penalties. He set up scoring opportunities with nice passes and played a strong defensive game.

"He looked good in his second game," Lewis said. "He's still getting used to the smaller ice rink. I've throw him around with different linemates but every line that he plays with he has a good chemistry because he looks like a smart player."

Zetterberg, who turns 22 on Oct. 9, was one of the premier players in Sweden last season. He promises to be one of the top rookies in the NHL this year and already feels comfortable playing in North America.

"I've played a couple of games, so I'm kind of used to it now," he said. "It's not a big deal."

Zetterberg has arrived at the perfect time for the Wings, who'll be without captain Steve Yzerman for at least half the season while he recuperates from knee surgery. The club maintains that Yzerman is expected to return in January, amidst speculation that he might not be back until just before the playoffs.

In any event, Zetterberg will certainly help fill the void.

"He's strong on his skates, he's got a great shot," McCarty said. "He's a complete player. Watching him kill penalties, he did a good job position-wise. He's always moving, made a couple of good plays deep in our end, tying somebody up, driving to the net, getting back in the play. The kid knows how to play the game. He's going to be good."

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My hat is off to the Wing's Management team. They've been doing all the right moves. How much do you think Federov will ask for next year? I'm guessing $10 mill a year.

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