Pavel Datsyuk could be appearing in his final NHL game with the Detroit Red Wings against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference First Round at Amalie Arena on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SUN, FS-D, TVA Sports 2).
The Red Wings trail the best-of-seven series 3-1 and will be eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a loss. Datsyuk has floated the idea of returning to his native Russia after the season. If that happens, it will be the end of an era in Detroit, NHL Hall of Fame member Pavel Bure writes in his latest blog for NHL.com/ru, the League's Russian language website.
"Datsyuk has had a tremendous NHL career," Bure said in the article. "He came to the Red Wings as a young kid, learned from [Steve] Yzerman, [Brendan] Shanahan, [Nicklas] Lidstrom, and soon himself became one of the cornerstones of the team's success. He picked up that generation trend and morphed into a longtime team leader. To me it's even more outstanding than all his individual awards or the amount of Stanley Cup wins.
"Unfortunately, the nice fairy tale of the Detroit Red Wings is slowly coming to an end. The team has always been famous for a smooth succession of generations, which helped to educate new leaders of the team from Steve Yzerman to Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. Now, we do not see those players who are able to replace the aging leaders."
Datsyuk has won the Stanley Cup twice (2002, 2008), and has 918 points (314 goals, 604 assists) in 953 NHL games, all with the Red Wings. But he's yet to earn a point in four games against the Lightning, a sign changes could be inevitable in Detroit if the Red Wings are eliminated.
"For a long time, the Red Wings managed to stay competitive and make [the] playoffs without access to high draft picks," Bure said. "But it's starting to show that the team needs major rebuilding.
"In the series with Tampa [Bay] we can see that although the scores often make it look like it's always very competitive, the Lightning dominated almost every game. They are on a different level. Tampa [Bay] will make it to the next round."