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Datsyuk to make Final debut in Game 5

by Brian Compton
DETROIT -- The Detroit Red Wings are getting their Hart Trophy finalist back.

He didn't speak with reporters Friday afternoon, but Pavel Datsyuk will be in the lineup Saturday night when the Wings host the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final at Joe Louis Arena (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS). Detroit coach Mike Babcock made the announcement during his daily address to reporters.

"He'll play," Babcock said of Datsyuk, who hasn't been in the lineup since taking a shot on the foot in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals against the Chicago Blackhawks on May 19.

Datsyuk tried his best to be in uniform for Thursday's 4-2 loss at Pittsburgh, which evened the best-of-7 series at two games apiece. He dressed for warmups, but it was then determined that he wasn't ready to go.

Apparently, something has changed in the last 18 hours. Considering how well Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby are playing, Datsyuk's return couldn't come at a better time. Not only can Datsyuk provide offense -- he had 97 points during the regular season -- but he's also arguably the best defensive forward in the sport.

How much Datsyuk will play, however, remains to be seen.

"Prior to (Thursday's) game, we were hoping Pav was going to be in, but we weren't planning (for it)," Babcock said. "Now we're hoping Pav's going to be in, and we're planning that he's going to be in. But he's still got to be in.

"Then the second thing is, how does he do when he gets out there? He missed a chunk of time. Is he capable of those situations? Is he playing on the wing or is he playing in the middle? We'll see. I don't know the answer, and I'm being honest with you, just because until I see them play, I won't know."

What the Wings do know is that they have the ability to win without Datsyuk. Despite his injury against the Blackhawks, the Red Wings were still able to dispose of Chicago in five games. They then went on to grab a 2-0 series lead against the Pens before dropping back-to-back games in Pittsburgh.

"We've been playing without him for a few games now," Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "We've been successful without him, but we know if he can play, he adds a lot to our team. We all know that."

While Babcock would love for Datsyuk to be 100 percent on Saturday night, he knows that likely won't be the case. But with the Stanley Cup Final now a best-of-3, it's time for every player on the roster to dig down for that something extra.

"I've said this many times during the playoff run, the greatest thing about this trophy is how hard it is," said Babcock, who is aiming to lead Detroit to back-to-back titles. "When you have injuries, it's harder. Suck it up and find a way to win. Who cares? No one cares except the team who wins in the end.

You get your name on that thing, it's the greatest summer of your life. That's still our plan."

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