An injury to his left knee has kept Datsyuk out of the lineup since Feb. 27, and the Red Wings shut him down completely March 5 to allow inflammation in the knee to subside. Tuesday he took part in his first full practice in a month. Though he didn't take part in line rushes or power-play drills, Datsyuk told reporters in Detroit he was encouraged by how the session went.
"I'm happy to be back with the team," Datsyuk said. "I need a little more time to pick up the pace, pick up everything. I can do full skates, lots of things that they do that I cannot do before, that's why I take three weeks [off]."
Coach Mike Babcock wasn't ready to commit to Datsyuk returning Wednesday, or Friday against the Buffalo Sabres.
"I spend my time worrying about the players that are playing, so if I hear he's in [Wednesday], I'll start worrying about him then," Babcock said.
The Red Wings enter play Tuesday with a two-point lead on the Columbus Blue Jackets for the first Eastern Conference wild-card spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and they're three points ahead of the Washington Capitals. That's given Datsyuk a sense of urgency to return to the lineup.
"We're in a race to make the playoffs," he said. "That's more important; they're playing well."
Even at less than 100 percent, Datsyuk's presence would give his teammates a lift.
"It's great to see him out on the ice skating and being part of practices," forward Daniel Alfredsson told MLive.com. "We feel that we're playing pretty consistent hockey right now, and getting a guy with his experience and his offensive abilities, among other things, will be a big boost for this team."
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