MONTREAL - Star forward Pavel Datsyuk has been cleared to play for the Detroit Red Wings against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night after missing the first five games of the NHL season with a shoulder injury.
"They said, 'If you're ready, you go,' and I say, 'I go,'" the 36-year-old Datsyuk said. "You always try to prepare, but a game is a different level."
The Red Wings got off to a strong start at 3-1-1 without the four-time Lady Byng Trophy winner, but they have scored only 11 goals in five games. Datsyuk, who has two 97-point seasons in his 13-year NHL career, can certainly help in that department.
"It's a big boost for us," said Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg. "He's been skating good in practice and finally he's ready to go.
"He's an important player for us and one of the best players in the league."
Datsyuk has been skating for the past two days on right wing on the top line with Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader. He expects to switch between centre and the wing, at least until he is back in game shape.
"Any time you've missed all of training camp and the start of the season it's going to take a while to get going, but we're optimistic he can help us," said coach Mike Babcock. "I don't know if it changes (the team) now, but when he's healthy, it changes a lot.
"We can play him in the middle, we can play him on the wall, we can play him with Zee (Zetterberg), we can play him on his own. There's lots of things we can do with him. I don't know right now because until I see him play I won't know where he's at."
Datsyuk was injured in Detroit's first pre-season game against Pittsburgh.
He is a three-time winner of the Selke Trophy as the league's best defensive forward and is a major offensive threat.
However, injuries have been a bother of late. He played in only 45 games last season due to knee problems and then missed the start of the current campaign.
The Red Wings rebounded from a loss to the Boston Bruins by posting back-to-back wins against the Toronto Maple Leafs; a 4-1 victory in Toronto last Friday and a 1-0 decision on a Zetterberg goal in overtime the following night in Detroit.
"Zee played really well for us the last two games," added Babcock. "Our team is a hard-working team, skates pretty good.
"We haven't scored a lot. Pavel would help that. (Johan) Franzen, who is out now but who started really strong for us, would help that as well. I just think we're a hard-working team that's trying to be organized and trying to get better."
One player off to a hot start is Gustav Nyquist, who had four goals in five games playing on Zetterberg's line. Now he will likely drop to the second unit, but should still be on the power play.
"(Datsyuk) is really good on the power play, so that's going to help us for sure," said Nyquist.