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Red Wings to shut down Datsyuk for three weeks

by Brian Hedger

DETROIT -- The hits keep coming for the Detroit Red Wings, who will be without two-thirds of their top line for nearly all of the regular season.

After already losing captain Henrik Zetterberg for the rest of the season following back surgery in February, the Red Wings are shutting down top center Pavel Datsyuk for at least three weeks to rest his ailing left knee.

Detroit general manager Ken Holland broke the news Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena not long after reaching an agreement with the Nashville Predators to acquire 33-year old veteran center David Legwand.

"We don't really know how long a player's out," Holland said during a lengthy press conference. "The last thing you want is surgery. [We're] hoping these things heal on their own."

Pavel Datsyuk
Center - DET
GOALS: 15 | ASST: 18 | PTS: 33
SOG: 113 | +/-: -2
Holland said the plan for Datsyuk is to increase rehab efforts and back off strenuous off-ice conditioning work, which might have limited his recovery during a similar break from playing games in January.

"We're going to re-address this thing in three weeks," Holland said. "It doesn't mean [Datsyuk] will be back. It allows [him], in his own mind, [to know] that his body has a period of time [to rest]. Let's see if we can wake up in three weeks and the inflammation that's not allowing him to do the things he wants to do ... let's see if this is the answer. If it's not the answer, then we'll look at what's next. [We're] hoping in three-to-four weeks, Pav is out here zipping around and we're having conversations about when he's coming back."

Holland said that he, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock and head athletic trainer Piet Van Zant met with Datsyuk this past weekend and again Monday to talk about his knee. Each time they left the meeting with the same feeling.

"I think it became pretty obvious ... that Pav was frustrated and all we were [going to] do is have an athlete that was, in our opinion, [going to] get emotionally burned out," Holland said. "When you can't do something that you know you can do at a [certain] level, it just grinds on you and grinds on you and grinds on you."

Datsyuk will now go through "aggressive" rehab methods to help speed the recovery.

"If it doesn't work, then obviously we can have a conversation in the offseason or six weeks from now about maybe having some type of surgery," Holland said. "Right now, we're hoping this plan of attack is [going to] allow us to wake up in three weeks, three or four weeks, and have [him] practicing and thinking about getting back in our lineup."

The Red Wings have 21 games left, so time is running short on their quest to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a 23rd straight season. The challenge would be tough enough without just Zetterberg and Datsyuk, but Detroit is also missing centers Stephen Weiss and Darren Helm, not to mention depth forwards Daniel Cleary and Mikael Samuelsson.

Weiss, who signed a five-year contract with the Red Wings this past summer as an unrestricted free agent, has missed most of the season with a nagging groin injury. He had sports hernia surgery in late December and is trying to return from that procedure.

Weiss experienced a setback this week after getting on the ice. Holland hopes he'll be ready to go by sometime next week.

Helm, who's also missed significant time with various injuries, left the game at the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night with headaches and other concussion symptoms. He is undergoing the League's concussion protocols that need to be met before returning and could also be out until next week.

"It's similar to last year," Holland said of Detroit's playoff chase amid an injury-plagued season. "We've got to win some games and we've got to hope we get some good luck on the injury front. I mean the people we're talking about, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg and Stephen Weiss and Darren Helm ... I mean, well, that's our whole center spot as we sat in training camp. Certainly with [Datsyuk] and [Zetterberg], that's two-thirds of a No.1 line."

Getting Legwand should help.

Holland said the veteran center will suit up Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena against the Colorado Avalanche. Babcock will make the ultimate decision where to play him, but he'll likely step right into the top line between Gustav Nyquist and Johan Franzen.

Detroit paid a hefty price to get him. Going to Nashville from the Red Wings are veteran forward Patrick Eaves, highly-regarded forward prospect Calle Jarnkrok (the 51st pick in the 2010 NHL Draft) plus a conditional third-round pick in the 2014 draft. That pick will turn into a second-round selection if Detroit qualifies for the playoffs.

Holland said the trade wasn't made out of desperation. He said it was more about necessity, after learning about Datsyuk's new plan and Helm in the 24 hours leading into the NHL Trade Deadline on Wednesday.

“From that point on it's been negative news, I guess, about our forwards," Holland said. "So, as you go from [10 p.m. Tuesday] to [11 p.m. Tuesday] to [12 p.m. Wednesday], you're starting to think about, 'Is there a centerman on the market that we think can fit what we're looking for?' And we think we found the perfect fit."

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