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Datsyuk remains positive about return

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Pavel Datsyuk had one shot on goal and was a plus-3 in more than 11 minutes of ice time in his last game for the Red Wings, a 6-1 win at Ottawa. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROITPavel Datsyuk did not skate at the Red Wings’ morning skate Thursday, which was a planned day away from the ice in the superstar’s rehabilitation regimen.

Still, Datsyuk was at Joe Louis Arena where he did conditioning exercises and received treatment for his injured left knee, which, he said, may or may not require surgery in the off-season.

“We’ll see what happens,” said Datsyuk, who has missed the last dozen games. “Hard to say now, we do everything to, like, not do surgery.”

For now, Datsyuk is determined to remain positive and stay on course in hopes of returning sometime before the end of the regular season to help the Red Wings reach the Stanley Cup playoffs for the 23rd straight season.

“Of course it is positive. I don’t skate for two weeks, now I’m skating,” he said. “It’s big for me too, and I want to be positive.”

Before he can return, Datsyuk will need a few practices with the full squad before he feels comfortable with being inserted back into the lineup.

“Of course it’s different when you skate alone,” he said. “It’s a different level when you skate with teammates and there’s a gain every day and you pick up speed.”

Datsyuk skated on his own Monday and Tuesday before joining some teammates in an optional skate Wednesday, and while coach Mike Babcock didn’t watch the practice, he heard encouraging words from the team’s athletic trainer Piet Van Zant.

“Piet told me that he looks like he could play but I’ve heard that lots,” Babcock said. “When I see him in the lineup I’ll believe it.”

Datsyuk suffered the injury more than 2 ½ months ago and played in two games before heading to the Sochi Olympics in Russia where he was captain of the Russian team. He finished with two goals and six points in five games for the disappointed Russians, who lost in the quarterfinals.

Upon returning from Sochi, Datsyuk appeared in two more games, though he did not play the third period of the Red Wings’ 6-1 win at Ottawa on Feb. 27. Six days later, the Red Wings announced that they were keeping Datsyuk off the ice for three weeks in hopes that resting the injury would get him back in the lineup sooner.

“I feel really not great, I could just do what I could do,” Datsyuk said of playing post-Olympics for the Wings. “It was like, play a simple game, save my knee.”

Unfortunately, should Datsyuk return prior to the April 13 season finale in St. Louis, he believes that he may need to battle through lingering pain and discomfort.

“I don’t know if I’ll make it back 100 percent,” he said. But I have better chance, better percentage, to come back to be Pavel.

“We have plan to be better. So it’s the beginning and it’s not very good. Now we’re planning maybe not being 100 percent but close to something.”

While it hasn’t been easy to watch games on TV, seeing what the youngsters have done in keeping the Red Wings’ playoff hopes alive has been pleasing.

“I see what they have done, and I’m happy with what they did, the whole team is sticking together and playing like a team,” Datsyuk said. “It’s fun to watch but not fun to watch for me. They’ve done a great job and I’m very happy for this.”

In 39 games, the 35-year-old Datsyuk has produced 15 goals and 33 points.

Datsyuk sat out seven games earlier this season with a concussion when he was elbowed in the jaw courtesy of Ottawa’s Jared Cowen on Nov. 23. Datsyuk has been dealing with the knee injury since the New Year’s Day Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium.

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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