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Red Wings' Datsyuk still hopes to return this season

by Brian Hedger

DETROIT -- The good news for the Detroit Red Wings is center Pavel Datsyuk has started skating on his own and can now do off-ice work in the weight room.

The bad news is his left knee, which has troubled him most of the season, probably won't be 100 percent again this season. Datsyuk didn't do any on-ice work before or during the Red Wings' morning skate Thursday at Joe Louis Arena, but did put in some hard work off the ice.

He also skated on his own a couple times this week, starting Monday. It's all part of the regimen that was set up for him on NHL Trade Deadline day, when Detroit shut him down from all hockey-related activities for a couple weeks to see if the problem might clear up faster.

"It feels OK," Datsyuk said of the knee, which bothered him prior to the 2014 Sochi Olympics and even more after he returned from playing for Russia. "I'm still not skating hard enough to check how I feel."

Datsyuk recently sent out a tweet from his Twitter account that gave Red Wings fans hope he might be nearing a return to the ice. Turns out that might've been a little optimistic rather than realistic.

Pavel Datsyuk
Pavel Datsyuk
Center - DET
GOALS: 15 | ASST: 18 | PTS: 33
SOG: 113 | +/-: -2
"Of course it is positive," Datsyuk said of the tweet. "I don't skate for two weeks, now I'm skating. It's big for me too, and I want to be positive. Of course, it's different when you skate alone. It's a different level when you skate with teammates and there's a game every [other] day and you pick up speed."

Datsyuk has scored 15 goals with 18 assists in 39 games for Detroit. He hasn't played since Feb. 27 at the Ottawa Senators and has missed 26 of the previous 30 Red Wings games sandwiched around the Olympic break.

How confident is he the time off will help enough to get him back into top two-way form?

"Nobody knows," Datsyuk said. "We just are hoping and hoping, and pray too. Target date? 2014. Every day I hope it's better and better and I can say anything like, 'Tomorrow can be the deadline.'"

Datsyuk didn't rule out needing surgery in the offseason to correct whatever is wrong, but is doing everything he can to avoid that outcome. Meanwhile, he waits and watches Red Wings games, like a large group of injured teammates, to see if the young fill-ins can carve out a path to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Should they do it, there's a good chance Datsyuk and captain Henrik Zetterberg (back surgery) will be back in action in the postseason. Datsyuk is hoping to return prior to the playoffs, if possible.

"I don't know if I'll make it back 100 percent, but I have better chance, better percentage, to come back to be 'Pavel,'" he said. "Of course, it's not easy when you miss lots of games and you have to pick up [the] pace in the playoffs. It's a different level, different hockey."

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