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Datsyuk aims for a strong finishing kick

by Phil Coffey / Detroit Red Wings
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By the standards of most players, 11 goals and 25 assists with a plus-11 mark through 41 games would be a very productive season.

Most players, however, are not Pavel Datsyuk.

We are accustomed to magical things from Datsyuk, who entered 2009-10 with back-to-back seasons of 30-plus goals and 97 points. But this season has been a struggle, as it has been for the Red Wings as a whole, who have had to battle through a seemingly endless string of injuries following an offseason makeover.

"He's like the team as a whole has been," teammate Nicklas Lidstrom told Dana Wakiji of the Detroit News. "We haven't been as effective offensively as we've been in the past. We've had to play real well defensively to win games. We have to win games with less scoring than we've had to in the past. Everybody has had to adjust to that, not just Pav."

Fair enough. The Wings have accented defensive play more this season, and the superbly skilled Datsyuk surely excels in that area. But in the past, he has been able to take defensive excellence and turn it into offensive opportunities. So far this season, those chances haven't come with normal regularity.

"I am worried, yes, but not like a lot," Datsyuk said. "The most important thing is that we stay strong as a team."

Coach Mike Babcock, who knows his team better than anyone, says it isn't a mystery for Datsyuk's offensive drop. With Marian Hossa, Jiri Hudler and Mikael Samuelsson leaving as free agents and Johan Franzen, Dan Cleary and Tomas Holmstrom losing time to injuries, continuity has been at a premium.

"He hasn't had the surrounding guys as much this year and that has made it harder," Babcock said. "But it's amazing when all you do is check, check, check, it's because you don't have the puck as much as you are used to."

"It is what it is right now, but I am looking forward," Datsyuk said. "We have 30 games left. I am going to do my best and get my numbers back up where they usually are. I never stop fighting. I had 31 goals, then 32 goals. I want 32 goals again."

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