The Detroit Red Wings have done just fine without leading scorer Henrik Zetterberg. Getting the All-Star forward back should only make the league's best team even better.
Zetterberg is expected to return to the Red Wings' lineup Wednesday night when they put a four-game winning streak on the line against the surging Phoenix Coyotes at Joe Louis Arena.
Zetterberg missed Detroit's final two contests before the All-Star break with a sore back, an injury that has limited him to 44 games this season. Despite missing seven games, Zetterberg still leads the team with 28 goals and 61 points.
Opting to rest his ailing back, Zetterberg declined an invitation to the All-Star Game after he was voted to the Western Conference starting lineup.
"It feels pretty good. I skated good yesterday and skated even better today," Zetterberg told the Red Wings' official Web site on Tuesday. "I think it's a green light for tomorrow."
Detroit coach Mike Babcock said he would not limit his star forward's ice time.
"I'm not taking it easy on him one bit. If he's playing, he's playing," Babcock said. "If he's not playing, he's not playing. Him and I discussed that this morning and he's not going to play (just) 14 minutes. He seems to be feeling real good."
Zetterberg has eight goals and eight assists during a six-game point streak against Phoenix.
Most teams would find it difficult to overcome the loss of their top scorer, but not the Red Wings (37-10-4), who lead the NHL with 78 points and appear on their way to a third Presidents' Trophy in four seasons.
Detroit won both games without Zetterberg before the break, outscoring Los Angeles and Anaheim by a combined 5-1 margin.
"It was a game we sort of expected," said Hasek, who turned 43 Tuesday. "They came at us very physical, but we said to ourselves that we have to be as physical as they are, especially in the first period."
Since giving up five goals in a loss to Atlanta on Jan. 15, Detroit has been excellent defensively during the four-game streak. They have allowed only six goals in the last four games while limiting opponents to an average of 24.5 shots.
Strong defense has also keyed the Red Wings' 3-0-0 record this season against the Coyotes. Phoenix has scored two goals in each of those three losses while going scoreless in 13 power-play opportunities.
Detroit has won seven straight against the Coyotes overall, outscoring them 34-12.
Surprising Phoenix (27-21-2) continued its impressive play with a 4-2 come-from-behind victory Tuesday at Columbus, its third straight win.
"It was one of the best games we've played this year," coach Wayne Gretzky said. "We matched up against a good team that's playing well."
Rookie Peter Mueller scored twice and Radim Vrbata added a goal and an assist as the Coyotes won for the first time in 19 games this season when trailing after two periods.
Phoenix, which is 10-3-1 in its last 14 games, moved into eighth place in the Western Conference.
Shane Doan assisted on Mueller's second goal of the game, giving the Coyotes captain seven goals and 13 assists during a career-best 13-game point streak.