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Datsyuk's hopeful for Thursday return

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Pavel Datsyuk hopes to return to the Red Wings' lineup Thursday in Florida. He hasn't played since the outdoor Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT Pavel Datsyuk said Wednesday he’s fairly confident that he’ll be in the Red Wings’ lineup when they face off against the Panthers Thursday at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla.

Datsyuk, who has missed the last 14 games with some sort of leg injury, will make a decision on whether he plays or not following the Wings’ morning skate Thursday.

“Yeah, better every day it’s better and now I skate with the team and it’s more fun and more enjoyable and more confidence,” said Datsyuk, who is fourth in team scoring with 15 goals and 32 points in 35 games this season.

Following Wednesday’s practice at Detroit’s City Sports Arena, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said the ultimate decision on Datsyuk’s availability will be made by the Russian superstar.

If Datsyuk is cleared to play, the Wings will not have to make room on the roster for him, as it was announced Wednesday that defenseman Jakub Kindl will not play Thursday or Saturday in Tampa Bay.

Kindl has played the last three games but suffered a lower body injury in Monday’s 2-0 win over Vancouver. He has averaged little over 18-minutes of ice time this season but was held to 11:16 against the Canucks.

With four days left before Olympian hockey players – including 10 Red Wings players and two team officials – leave for the Sochi Olympics in Russia, the importance of those two upcoming road games aren’t overlooked by the players, especially Datsyuk, who was getting fed up from watching instead of playing.

“Yeah, it’s important but it’s frustrating to stay in the locker room and watch the game, it makes me more nervous,” said Datsyuk, who hasn’t played since the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day. “Can’t help the team in the locker room and watch our game. Better to play.”

With Datsyuk on the verge of coming back, the Red Wings’ roster is the closest to being whole again for the first time in a long while. Center Stephen Weiss (sports hernia surgery) and forward Johan Franzen (concussion) remain sidelined.

“Everybody is coming back from injuries and few guys left,” Datsyuk said. “I think there’s more confidence in the locker room when team plays whole. Lot’s of confidence in this locker room now.”

With 62 points, the Red Wings currently hold the second wild-card spot, just ahead of Philadelphia (62) and Ottawa (61) in the Eastern Conference standings.

Without Datsyuk in the lineup, the Red Wings power play has struggled, going 7-for-36 in the last 14 games.

“We need Pav, he’s one of our best players,” general manager Ken Holland said. “He’s a dynamic player as well. When he’s out there he takes a lot of attention off some other players. I think that’s going to be good for the other guys.

“We need to get healthy and stay above the (playoff) line, just continue to battle and find a way to get points.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Rooose

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