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Wonder no more: Datsyuk plays in Game 5

by Brian Compton
DETROIT -- No more testing it out. No more wondering.

When the puck drops in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final at Joe Louis Arena Saturday night (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS), the Detroit Red Wings will have Pavel Datsyuk in their lineup.

Dastyuk, who nearly played in Game 4 in Pittsburgh Thursday night, skated again Saturday morning and was one of the first players off the ice. He's eager to help the Wings try to take a 3-2 series lead against the Penguins, who won back-to-back games at Mellon Arena.

"Not everybody's healthy. You need to play … it doesn't matter if you're healthy or not," Datsyuk said. "Everybody plays like that. I'm looking forward to the next game."

As is Detroit coach Mike Babcock, who said Datsyuk will start the game on the wing as opposed to his natural center position.

"We're going to start him that way and we're going to see how he does," Babcock said. "If he looks like himself, we'll be in the middle. We need that checking center back."

Babcock admitted he thought Datsyuk would be able to play in Game 4 -- even after being told five hours before game time that the Russian star would likely be unavailable.

"I thought he was going last game -- even after the trainer at 3 o'clock told me that he probably wasn't," Babcock said. "Then when we saw the warmup, we still thought he was going. He's going."

The hope is that Datsyuk's return will alleviate some pressure off Henrik Zetterberg, who has been matched against the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in the first four games of this series. While Datsyuk is a tremendous offensive talent -- he had 97 points during the regular season -- he's also one of the best defensive forwards in the League.

"I think it'll help Hank," Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "Whether they're playing together … they can help each other offensively, too. You know it's going to help having a player of Pav's caliber coming back. We know what he can do offensively and defensively."

The Wings could certainly use Datsyuk's services at this point, as another loss would put them on the brink of elimination with the series shifting back to Pittsburgh for Game 6 Tuesday night. Datsyuk fully understands the situation.

"Everybody knows it's not an easy game and it's not an easy series," Datsyuk said. "We're a good team. It's 0-0. We're looking forward."

Wings forward Daniel Cleary and defenseman Brian Rafalski both did not skate Saturday morning, but are expected to be in the lineup for Game 5. Justin Abdelkader (flu) also did not skate, but Babcock expects the rookie forward to be available. He will be a game-time decision.

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