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Datsyuk's return a game-time decision

Thursday, 06.04.2009 / 1:41 PM / 2009 Stanley Cup Final: Detroit vs. Pittsburgh

By Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

PITTSBURGH -- Will he or won't he?

Just hours prior to the start of Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, it remains unknown as to whether Hart Trophy finalist Pavel Datsyuk will be in uniform on Thursday night, when the Detroit Red Wings aim to take a 3-1 series lead against the Pittsburgh Penguins (8 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS).

Datsyuk was the last player to come off the ice Thursday morning -- long after his teammates did, as he continues to test his injured foot. The Russian star will apparently dress for pre-game warmup, and then a decision will be made.

"I feel much better," said Datsyuk, who hasn’t played since Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. "I'm going to go pre-game skate. It's a lot better. I'm not comfortable giving a percentage."

In most cases, someone who was on the ice for as long as Datsyuk was on Thursday morning is a strong indication that he wouldn't play in Game 4. But Datsyuk insisted he was simply trying to test himself.

"I didn't skate for two weeks," Datsyuk said. "Just wanted to feel it, (get) more confidence. When you don't skate for two weeks, it's a little bit hard for me. I feel it was better in the morning. I feel more confidence more now."

Despite his thick accent, Datsyuk's humor tends to shine through. It did again early Thursday afternoon, when a reporter asked what problems Datsyuk was still experiencing.

"I don't score in like 12 games," he said. "This is problems. The foot is OK. Every day is better and better, and today is much better. I have more smiles. I'm more happy. It's still a little bit sore, but it's fine."

Once warmups have concluded, Detroit coach Mike Babcock said it will be up to Datsyuk -- who has one goal this postseason -- if he wants to play.

"Pavel already told me he's warming up and planning on playing," Babcock said. "Now, we've had lots of plans over the years. We'll see what happens. I'm not making the decision. When Pav's ready, he's playing."

Contact Brian Compton at: bcompton@nhl.com.
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