– After missing seven games with a lower body injury, Pavel Datsyuk
returned to the line-up Sunday night as the Red Wings hosted the Minnesota Wild at Joe Louis Arena. The Russian superstar, who skated alongside some familiar linemates in Danny Cleary
and Henrik Zetterberg
, posted his 58th point of the season and was instrumental in the Wings’ 4-2 victory over the Wild.
With the playoffs around the corner, Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom
knows how valuable Datsyuk’s presence is for the team.
“He’s so important to our offense,” Lidstrom said. “But just having him back and for him to get a few games in before the playoffs is going to be key as well. And I’ll tell you, he looked good tonight.”
Datsyuk showed virtually no signs of rust, creating opportunities in the Minnesota zone from the onset. With five minutes into the first period, he found a wide-open Jakub Kindl
about 20 feet in front of the Minnesota net. Unfortunately, Kindl’s shot sailed high, but Datsyuk’s ability to create scoring chances was surely felt by an outmatched Minnesota Wild.
It was Datsyuk who posted up in front of Minnesota goalie Jose Theodore, screening the goaltender as Lidstrom’s blast from the point found the back of the net and put the Wings up 2-0 at 19:40 in the first.
And it wasn’t long after that Datsyuk showed up on the box score, tallying an assist on Thomas Holmstrom’s power-play goal at 12:38 in the second. It was Datsyuk’s 36th assist of the season, which is an even more impressive statistic considering Datsyuk has only played in 53 games all season.
Perhaps there weren’t the flashy Datsyukian dekes and dangles that Detroit fans are used to seeing, but Datsyuk’s presence clearly elevated the play – and the spirits – of his recently struggling team. In the six games Datsyuk missed, Detroit went 2-3-2, with one of those losses being the already-notorious 10-3 defeat at the hands of the St. Louis Blues.
With Datsyuk back in the lineup, the Wings look to lock down that second seed in the Western Conference, which they took back from the San Jose Sharks with tonight’s win. Detroit will travel to Raleigh to play the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday night.