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At the Rink: Flyers at Red Wings

by Paul Harris

DETROIT -- Pavel Datsyuk will be back on the ice for the Detroit Red Wings, who hope he can stay there.

Datsyuk, who has missed the past four games and six of the past eight with a sore groin, returns on Wednesday night when Detroit plays the Philadelphia Flyers at Joe Louis Arena.

Datsyuk, 36, originally sat out two games, came back and played two, and then missed four.

He missed the first five games of the season with a separated shoulder.

"I thought initially it took him a bit to get back, and then he was on fire and got hurt again," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "The big thing for [Datsyuk] is as you get a little older in your career, your physical fitness and the amount of care you take in keeping your body healthy is so important. He's a high-end player for us."

Datsyuk has five goals and 11 points in 10 games this season and will center the third line with Darren Helm and Stephen Weiss on his wings. Weiss scored his first two goals of the season Monday against the Ottawa Senators, in only his second game of 2014-15, and his first goals in over a year. Weiss has also had groin issues and was a healthy scratch when the season began.

He's excited to play on Datsyuk's line.

"He makes the game a lot easier for the guys that play around him, so I'm looking forward to that," Weiss said.

Weiss played junior with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League. The franchise is based in suburban Detroit.

"It's special. He's a guy I grew up watching, really and now to have a chance to play with him, it's pretty cool," Weiss said. "But you can't be worried about that too much. I've just got to worry about what I've got to do, and hopefully we can find some chemistry, the three of us."

Not only is the line of Datsyuk, Helm and Weiss all centers, they've all missed significant playing time over the past three seasons, combining to miss 306 regular-season games over that span. Weiss has sat out 140 and Datsyuk and Helm have missed 83 each.

Philadelphia coach Craig Berube talked about Datsyuk's impact.

"It makes their lines more dangerous. He's such a great player," Berube said. "A great two-way player. Every time he's on the ice, he's dangerous."

The Flyers may also get a key forward back.

Left wing Michael Raffl is a game-time decision after missing eight games with a lower-body injury. He has six goals and seven points in 12 games.

Berube said it would be a case if Raffl could stand the pain enough to play.

Here are the projected lineups:


Brayden Schenn - Claude Giroux - Jakub Voracek

Matt Read - Sean Couturier - Wayne Simmonds

R.J. Umberger - Scott Laughton - Vincent Lecavalier

Zac Rinaldo- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Luke Schenn

Nicklas Grossmann - Mark Streit

Nick Schultz - Braydon Coburn

Michael Del Zotto - Andrew MacDonald

Steve Mason

Ray Emery

Scratched: Jason Akeson, Chris VandeVelde, Carlo Colaiacovo

Injured: Michael Raffl (lower body)


Gustav Nyquist - Henrik Zetterberg - Justin Abdelkader

Tomas Tatar - Riley Sheahan - Johan Franzen

Darren Helm - Pavel Datsyuk - Stephen Weiss

Drew Miller - Luke Glendening - Tomas Jurco

Jonathan Ericsson - Niklas Kronwall

Kyle Quincey - Danny DeKeyser

Xavier Ouellet - Jakub Kindl

Jimmy Howard

Petr Mrazek

Scratched: Joakim Andersson, Daniel Cleary, Brian Lashoff

Injured: Brendan Smith (hand)

Status report: Philadelphia has been dressing 11 forwards and seven defenseman and using defenseman Luke Schenn as a forward, playing right wing on the fourth line. Berube did not say how he would shift things is Raffl is able to return Wednesday night. Raffl had been playing well on the top line with Giroux and Voracek, but Berube said he likes the chemistry that the duo has developed with Brayden Schenn. … Datsyuk replaces Andersson in the lineup. Andersson usually plays right wing on the fourth line. Jurco, who has played mostly on the third line, will play the right side on the fourth line.

Who's hot: Mason didn't get the win but stopped all 46 shots he faced in 65 minutes in a 1-0 shootout loss against the New York Islanders on Monday. … Tatar has a six-game point streak (five goals, three assists). Sheahan has three goals and two assists in his past five games.

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