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Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg likely out for rest of regular season with back ailment

SOCHI, Russia - The Detroit Red Wings don't expect Henrik Zetterberg to play again during the regular season.

Zetterberg had back surgery Friday in New York to remove a fragmented disk.

"I don't anticipate he'll be ready to play in any games of the regular season," Red Wings general manager Ken Holland told The Associated Press on Saturday. "I'm hopeful that we can play our way into the playoffs and that he'll be back, but that's down the road."

The Red Wings and Swedish Olympic hockey team captain played once at the Sochi Games before pulling out because of the injury.

Holland is hopeful Zetterberg's back injury does not prematurely end his career.

"I'm told it has nothing to do with his career," Holland said. "But the surgery is something that needed to be done and he'll be as good as new."

Detroit, which is aiming to earn a spot in a 23rd consecutive NHL post-season, is competing for one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

The team announced Friday that Zetterberg's status would be evaluated again in eight weeks, a timetable that likely ruled him out for a return before the regular season ends on April 13. The playoffs begin April 16.

"We're using the eight-week period, but it could be six or seven or it could be longer," Holland said. "In December, when Z was having some issues and we shut him down, we were aware there was a fragment in there. We were hopeful he could get through the season.

"Unfortunately, the fragment lodged itself in a nerve."

Zetterberg is expected to stay in New York until he is cleared to return to Detroit in perhaps a few days.

"He's up and about, he's walking," Holland said. "He just has to take it easy for a while."

With 24 games left, it will be hard for Red Wings to compete for a spot in the playoffs without Zetterberg. He has 16 goals and 32 assists — both team highs — in 45 games this season. He missed most of December because of his back injury.

"It's going to be a tight race just like last year to end and we need all the bodies we can get," said Red Wings and Sweden defenceman Jonathan Ericsson, who will face Canada in the Olympic gold-medal game on Sunday in Russia. "Hank has been our best player all year."

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Follow Larry Lage on Twitter: http://twitter.com/larrylage

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