DETROIT — Pavel Datsyuk could make his return to the lineup and his season debut as early as Tuesday when the Red Wings face off against the Canadiens at Montreal's Bell Centre.
After suffering a separated right shoulder in the Wings’ first preseason game last month, Datsyuk skated with the top line during Monday’s practice at Joe Louis Arena. On a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader, Datsyuk said a decision on his return wouldn’t be made until after Tuesday morning’s skate in Montreal.
“He’s a good player. He’s looked great and has been practicing for a while,” coach Mike Babcock said. “I don’t know if he’s playing or not playing. I don’t know that answer.”
His potential return would cause a chain reaction of movement throughout the forward lines. Abdelkader moved to the first line on Saturday night to replace the injured Johan Franzen (leg spasms). Datsyuk would play in place of Gustav Nyquist, who moved to the second line skating alongside center Riley Sheahan and Tomas Tatar. Moving Nyquist to the second line vacates Tomas Jurco, who was bumped down to the third line with center Darren Helm and Andrej Nestrasil.
“Just trying to get (Sheahan’s line) to generate more," Babcock said. "Nikey’s been playing real well, if I’m going to play Pav and Z together they need a bigger body to be at the net for them. I want Nikey to have as many touches as he can so Sheahan’s a big body to be at the net for him and Tatar.
"Then, I’ll go the way with Helmer, Nesty and Jurco. We need Jurc’s to get going too. It’s an opportunity for those guys.”
Datsyuk’s return would be a tremendous boost to a Wings’ offense that is averaging 2.20 goals per game. With Babcock’s intent to put Datsyuk and Zetterberg on the top line together in addition to having Nyquist — the team’s leading goal scorer with four in five games — on the second line would makes it very difficult for an opponent to match.
A possible return would also be of help on a struggling power play as well. With two power-play goals in 21 tries, the addition of Daysuk — who has scored 14 power-play goals in the previous two seasons — would certainly improve the unit.
“We’ve worked on (the power play) extensively," Babcock said. "We had six quality scoring chances in the last game and no goals. So what happens over time when you don’t score it starts to eat up on you a little bit. We get Pav back and get her going here. We need to get the puck back more, we need to shoot more, we need to throw it in there a bit more and score some ugly goals to get it going."
The missing piece on the power play could quite possibly be Datsyuk.
“Pav is one of those few gifted guys in the league that can do certain things with the puck that only a few guys can do,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “Even in saying that, the rest of us, we have to get better than we have been (on the power play).”
MULE OUT: Franzen left in the second period of the Wings' 4-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday night. Dealing with leg spasms, Franzen has been placed on seven-day injured reserve and will not be eligible to play until Saturday when the Wings play the Flyers in Philadelphia.