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Datsyuk nominated for Masterton

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings
Gordie Howe will celebrate his birthday by attending the Wings game against Buffalo. Mr. Hockey turns 88 this Thursday, March 31. (Photo courtesy of Mark Howe)

DETROIT -- Pavel Datsyuk has a chance to add another honor to his resume.

The Detroit chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association nominated Datsyuk for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, given to the player who demonstrates perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.

Datsyuk missed the first 15 games of the season after offseason surgery to repair tendons in his ankle.

"Anytime you miss that much time like he did and missed the first part of the season, came back and is obviously one of the best players in the league still, at his age I think it’s amazing what he can do out there with the puck," Gustav Nyquist said. "I think it just shows how hard he works and even at his age how good he takes care of his body and that’s the biggest reason why he can play at this level because of how hard he works off the ice. So for sure he’s a good nominee to win it."

Justin Abdelkader has played with Datsyuk for a long time, often on the same line.

"I think Pavel's just a great ambassador for our team, for the sport of hockey," Abdelkader said. "He does things right. He's professional on and off the ice and he's a great guy for us to have in this locker room."

Luke Glendening is known as being a very hard worker but he said Datsyuk sets the tone.

"To have one of the best players in the world on your team and be able to see how hard he works, whether it’s before practice, after practice, on off days, to see how he takes care of his himself is an unbelievable example for all of us," Glendening said. "He’s unbelievable."

Nyquist said he's learned a lot from Datsyuk over the years but no one can play like Datsyuk, even at the age of 37.

"A player like him is hard to emulate," Nyquist said. "You learn how hard he works on and off the ice. After practice he always stays on the ice and works on protecting the puck, playing keep-away with different guys. For a young guy it’s amazing to see how hard he works. Pavel is a special player and I wouldn’t be able to try to do the things he does with the puck because what he does is so special. I don’t think too many people can emulate what he does out there. But a big thing for me is how well he protects the puck. Everyone is gonna have their own techniques with doing that but how well he protects the puck and how well he plays at both ends of the ice is special."

The winner will be announced at the NHL Awards ceremony in June.

DESPERATE TIMES: The Wings are currently one spot outside the playoffs looking in with seven games left.

It's a similar situation to the one that the Wings have faced the last few years.

"You have to win games going down to the end here. That's the same," captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "The mindset for us, it's no difference than it was the other times. Even though we know we've got to win a lot of games, we can't think ahead. You've just got to focus on tonight. Play good here tonight, get two points and we move on."

The Buffalo Sabres are well aware of the Wings' situation.

"We talked about it this morning, they're going to be a desperate team, one that's fighting to get into that playoff picture in the last spot right now," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "We talked about playing games this time of year, they're hard to win, they're playoff-type games and we'll be in one tonight."

Sabres defenseman Zach Bogosian said he and his teammates have to focus on what they're trying to get accomplished.

"I don't think our mindset changes too much," Bogosian said. "We're just like them, they're looking to get the win and so are we. It's something that we have to match their energy right away. It's not to say that we can come out and think we're going to play the way they play, they have a very skilled team. I think if you look at how we play, we get pucks in and we battle and grind those games out and that's what we have to do. We have to play a hard game and not worry so much about what they're going to do."

Similarly, Wings coach Jeff Blashill said the Wings have to worry about themselves.

"We got to do a good job of getting pucks out of our end, we got to do a good job of getting pucks in their end," Blashill said. "I think we've been a really good O zone team, I think we've scored a lot of O zone goals in the month of March here with good net presence. We have to make sure we own each crease. If we do those things, we'll have a good chance of success."

Zetterberg said even though the young players have not necessarily been in this position, he is not worried that they're thinking too much about trying to make the playoffs.

"I think the young guys in here, they just go," Zetterberg said. "I don't know if they think about the big picture. It's nice to have that young blood here that just goes and plays and they do their job."

HOWARD STARTS: Since Feb. 12, Petr Mrazek is 6-6-2 with a 3.30 goals-against average and .888 save percentage.

Since Feb. 18, Jimmy Howard is 3-1-1 with a 2.80 goals-against average and .911 save percentage.

Blashill said that had a lot to do with Howard getting the start against Buffalo.

"Every game we try to go with the group that we think gives us the best chance to win that night and we decided that tonight we’re going to go with Jimmy," Blashill said.

Howard is 6-0-1 with a 1.46 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in eight career games against Buffalo.

"I feel good," Howard said after the morning skate. "We've got to focus on ourselves and going out there and putting forth a 60-minute effort. It's down to do or die like it has been for the last month. We've got to find a way to win games here."

Howard said he does not feel any extra pressure despite the situation the Wings are in.

"Just play the way I know I'm capable of playing," Howard said. "If I can do that, then I just give the guys a chance. I've just been in this situation before and the fact that you've come out on top gives you confidence that you can do it again."

HOWE IN THE HOUSE: The Wings will welcome Hall of Famer Gordie Howe to Monday night's game.

Howe celebrates his 88th birthday this Thursday.

"We’re pretty lucky around here," Blashill said. "Ted Lindsay was in here last week. To have Gordie Howe come in here means a ton. This organization has unreal history and he’s as big a piece of that as anybody. So to have him here tonight will be a great thing. I think it’s great for the Howe family that he’s able to come here and he’s really doing a good job, health-wise."

Even the Sabres are excited about seeing the Red Wings legend.

"I've been in this building a large number of times and I can count every time I know that Gordie Howe was in the building," Bylsma said. "I know he's going to be here tonight, it's his 88th birthday, I think on Thursday and we've had five or six guys talk about it in our dressing room that Gordie Howe's going to be here tonight, hoping to see him, hoping to get a picture. He just has that special about him, you look at the wall here and see a whole string of Hart trophies. He's not a hockey player I saw other than in highlights but he's got to be one of the greats of our game. In '14 he was in here, I got a picture with him, got him to sign it. It's in my basement on the wall."

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