DETROIT – Pavel Datsyuk probably knows a thing or two about great players, and the superstar center for the Detroit Red Wings thinks an All-Star Game or two is in the future for 27-year old Wings forward Valtteri Filppula.
The two have rarely played together on the same line, but Datsyuk has seen firsthand the kind of impact Filppula’s had for the Wings since moving from center to left wing on the second line with star Henrik Zetterberg at center.
Filppula has scored points in five of his last seven games, including six goals. He now has nine goals and 14 assists heading into a game Saturday night against the Winnipeg Jets at Joe Louis Arena (7 p.m.,
“He’s just more confident now and more grown up,” said Datsyuk, who has eight goals and 18 assists while centering the top line. “He’s just a bigger player now and he will be a good All-Star.”
That’s pretty high praise coming from an All-Star caliber player like Datsyuk, but the Russian star really likes what he’s seeing from his Finnish teammate.
“[Filppula] is one of the best players on our team this year so far,” Datsyuk said. “He shoots, he scores. He has lots of help and he helps [Zetterberg] on the second line, too.”
Other Wings are seeing it, too – including Jiri Hudler, who’s currently playing opposite Filppula on the second line at right wing. Filppula missed a game in St. Louis on Tuesday with a deep cut on his shin from a skate blade, but returned Thursday wearing protective Kevlar socks to score a goal and add another assist in a 5-2 win against the Phoenix Coyotes.
“[Filppula] is a horse,” Hudler said. “He’s really strong. He’s a strong guy and he flies. It’s tough to take the puck from him. He’s got big legs and it’s tough to go around him, too.”