Detroit Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill hinted Wednesday that captain Henrik Zetterberg will not be able to play the 2018-19 season dude to lingering back issues.
Zetterberg appeared in all 82 games last season, but his playing future has been in doubt throughout the off-season.
“As you know, Hank wasn’t able to practice for half the year. He was able to gut it out through those last two months where he wasn’t able to practice," Blashill told the Detroit News. "There were nights I didn’t think he’d able to play and he did play.
“He’s had a hard summer and I don’t think his back is reacting great. Certainly we’ll know more in a month (at training camp), but as of today, there’s a lot of doubt as to whether his back will be healthy enough to play.”
The 37-year-old posted 11 goals and 56 points last season and Blashill praised his toughness for not missing a game.
“It was unreal, and it speaks to the level of a competitor he is, and honestly, the toughness, to play through what he did," Blashill said. "Obviously if Hank isn’t able to play, there’s a lot of areas where it affects your team. Certainly from a leadership standpoint, but he’s still a real good player for us.
“But with that said, I’ve always been a huge believer that you never worry about who is not available, and you worry about who is available. How much it affects your team depends on the growth of other players, and has there been enough growth among other players? Will it [be] or not be a factor? We’ll see.”
Zetterberg remains signed for three more seasons at a $6.08 million cap hit, though his salary sits at $3.35 million this year and $1 million in each of the following two seasons.
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland did little to calm concerns about the veteran's playing status last week.
"I am anxious to know where Henrik Zetterberg is at," Holland said, per the Detroit Free Press. "He’s a bit of an unknown as far as health. Have talked to his agent - he has had tough summer. He hasn’t been able to train anywhere near where at past summers.
"I'm hoping he'll play."
A veteran of 1,082 games - all with the Red Wings - Zetterberg has 337 goals and 623 assists during his career.
He will turn 38 in October.