PITTSBURGH -- The Detroit Red Wings won't confirm that Pavel Datsyuk will return to the lineup after missing the first three games of the Stanley Cup Final. But the Pittsburgh Penguins won't be lulled into a sense of complacency in the hours before Thursday night's Game 4.
"Right now, they would be lying if he wasn't in," Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said at Thursday's morning skate. "(Detroit is) saying they (Datsyuk and Kris Draper) are going to play -- at least that is what I read. So we're planning on him being in the lineup, possibly with more additions, as well.
Detroit will add Draper to the lineup, which will help on the penalty kill -- Pittsburgh had two power-play goals, including Sergei Gonchar's game-winner -- in Game 3, and in the faceoff circle.
Draper is a veteran role player for these Wings. Datsyuk, out since Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals with a foot injury, is a far different proposition -- a world-class, game-breaking talent in the prime of his career. How good is Datsyuk? Well, he is up for three end-of-season League awards, including MVP.
"He's a skill player, a dangerous player; he's a guy that has been a threat all season long for their team," Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said "He's a guy you have to be aware of."
With that said, Pittsburgh says it is not going to go out of its way to game plan for the return of the silky-smooth Russian center.
"I don't think it is going to change a whole lot who we play against because at this point those matchups are pretty solidified," Crosby said.
It might change a little bit how Pittsburgh aligns its defense in Game 4 (8 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS). The Penguins did not match defensive pairings against specific Detroit lines in Game 3, a ploy they used regularly in the first two games on the road. But with the luxury of having last change, Bylsma may want to match his “D” a little more religiously.
Stylistically, the Penguins will not change their ways to counter the two-headed monster of Henrik Zetterberg and a healthy Datsyuk, says Pittsburgh's shut-down defenseman Rob Scuderi.
"He's had an MVP-caliber season," Scuderi said of Datsyuk. "He's dangerous in all situations; he plays penalty kill, power play. We know that he is dangerous. If he is out there, depending on who he is playing with, we'll keep an eye on him, but we still can't change the style we play.
"It's kind of late in the season to be changing the way we do things. We've had a lot of success and we're not going to stop the way we are playing.”
One thing that will happen if Datsyuk does play, says Bylsma, is that Zetterberg won't be used as extensively in chasing Crosby's line. As the road team in Game 3, Detroit had to send its players out first after each stoppage, meaning Pittsburgh could get the Crosby line away from Zetterberg's line. Detroit coach Mike Babcock responded by sending Zetterberg over the boards with little or no rest on several occasions.
The result was that Zetterberg played a whopping 24:19 in the last game, more than any other forward. But that should change if Datsyuk is able to shoulder some of the load.
"I don't know at what capacity those guys coming in are going to play and how much they are going to play, but they played Zetterberg an awful lot last game," Bylsma said. "I'm assuming if Datsyuk comes in, that would alleviate some of the pressure on his ice time."