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Datsyuk set to return for Red Wings vs. Sabres

by Mike Battaglino

SABRES (21-46-9) at RED WINGS (36-26-14)


Last 10: Buffalo 2-7-1; Detroit 6-3-1

Season series: The Detroit Red Wings defeated the Buffalo Sabres twice before Thanksgiving, outscoring them 5-2. They play twice in five days.

Big story: Forward Pavel Datsyuk will be in the Red Wings lineup for the first time since Feb. 27. He missed 16 games with a left-knee injury; Detroit was 8-6-2 without him.

"It's been long time [not playing]. I forget I'm a hockey player," Datsyuk told the team website Thursday. "[It's] exciting to come back."

Team Scope:

Sabres: Buffalo lost 2-1 at the St. Louis Blues on Thursday, starting a stretch of six straight games against likely Stanley Cup Playoff participants.

Defenseman Jake McCabe, who signed Wednesday, made his NHL debut. He's the 44th player to get in a game for Buffalo this season, a Sabres record.

"I've just been here for a couple weeks, but it's been up and down," forward Nicolas Deslauriers, who made his NHL debut March 7, told MSG Network. "A lot of guys are coming in. Everybody's just trying to pitch in, and I think everybody's doing a good job."

If the Sabres do not win out, they will have their fewest wins in a full season since they were 16-43-19 (ties) in 1971-72, their second in the NHL. Buffalo was 27-45-10 in 2002-03.

Goalie Matt Hackett will start after Nathan Lieuwen made 26 saves Thursday.

Red Wings: Datsyuk is likely to play wing on a line with two players who recently returned from injury: Darren Helm (concussion) and Justin Abdelkader (finger).

"I wouldn't spend too much time worrying about the lines in practice today," coach Mike Babcock said. "I've still got 24 hours to decide what I'm doing. I think [Pavel] will probably start on the wing, to be honest with you, because that's what he normally likes to do when he comes back. I'll talk to him tomorrow morning and kind of get a read on where we're at."

Forward David Legwand was moved back to a line with Johan Franzen and Gustav Nyquist.

Detroit, coming off a 3-2 win against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday, its third in a row, holds the first Eastern Conference wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Who's hot: Sabres forward Tyler Ennis has three points in the past two games. Forward Cody Hodgson has a three-game point streak, and forward Ville Leino has an assist in two straight. … Nyquist has a three-game goal streak after a six-game streak ended; he has 12 goals in that span, 28 for the season. Forward Tomas Tatar has four two-point games in the past six. Legwand has three points in the past two games. Goalie Jimmy Howard has a .935 save percentage winning his past two starts.

Injury report: Sabres forward Marcus Foligno (lower body) was injured on his first shift Thursday and will miss the rest of the season. Defenseman Henrik Tallinder (lower body) did not play. Forward Chris Stewart (ankle) skated with the team and may play again this season. Forwards Torrey Mitchell (undisclosed), Kevin Porter (lower body), Drew Stafford (undisclosed) and Zenon Konopka (back), defensemen Alexander Sulzer (upper body) and Tyler Myers (midsection), and goalies Michal Neuvirth (lower body) and Jhonas Enroth (lower body) are out. … Red Wings forward Daniel Alfredsson (back) skated Friday and general manager Ken Holland said he thinks the veteran will be available. Forwards Daniel Cleary (knee), Mikael Samuelsson (shoulder), Stephen Weiss (hernia) and Henrik Zetterberg (back), and defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (finger fracture) are out.

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