DETROIT – Since returning from a reoccurring groin injury before Thanksgiving, Pavel Datsyuk has been on a torrid pace, collecting 11 points in his past seven games.
Datsyuk continued his fast clip last week, producing seven points while helping the Red Wings to a 3-1-0 mark that forged a first-place tie with Tampa Bay in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference.
For his efforts, Datsyuk was named First Star in the NHL’s Three Stars of the Week honors.
A healthy Datsyuk is benefiting from a speedy forward line with Darren Helm and Tomas Tatar that coach Mike Babcock envisioned at the start of the regular season. But those plans were quickly extinguished when Datsyuk suffered a separated right shoulder in the first preseason game.
Despite missing 11 games, Datsyuk now has 12 goals and 22 points in 17 games. He’s second on the team in points behind captain Henrik Zetterberg, and is tied for the team lead in goals with Tatar and Gustav Nyquist.
By putting Helm and Tatar on Datsyuk’s line, Babcock said he saw an opportunity to create “some speed and some tenacity and some ability to score.”
In the past four games the Datsyuk-Helm-Tatar line has definitely done that – combining on 17 points, including nine goals.
“The way we’re spread out right now is that somebody else can pick you up on a different night, which is positive,” Babcock said. “I still think at some time we’re going to have Pav and Z back together again, especially at home. Maybe play them apart on the road. But all in all they’re a good line. But you should have more good lines.”
It’s the second time this season that the 36-year-old Datsyuk has received recognition in the league’s weekly Three Stars honors. He was Second Star after he tied for the league lead with seven points in three games for the week of Nov. 3.
Tatar, who is Datsyuk’s youngest linemate, is off to the best start of his career, and a lot of that has to do with the Magic Man’s ability to create scoring chances.
“He’s the best player I ever saw,” said Tatar, who is third in team scoring with 20 points. “Whenever I’m practicing with people back home, even those guys are saying he is amazing. We all know that, so we’re not surprised. If Pav stays healthy, just having him in the lineup is a huge help for us. He’s just playing really good in his area.”
But Tatar is well aware that he has to play his role in order for his line to continue on their current trend.
“You got to help him,” said Tatar, who was the league’s Second Star for the week ending Nov. 24. “You got to battle for pucks for Pav and be in a good spot. He’s going to take care of it. You just have to know where to be and how to help him and I feel like he can be really good for you and Helmer for us is huge, too, he’s skating a lot, he’s battling like crazy, so he’s a huge help for us, too.”
In Sunday’s 3-1 win at Carolina, Datsyuk registered a goal and two assists to lead the Red Wings to their third straight win and seventh victory in their past eight outings. It was Datsyuk’s second three-point performance of the season, and fifth multi-point game in his past seven contests. He also had three points in the Wings’ 5-2 win over Los Angeles on Oct. 31.
With two goals against the Hurricanes, Tatar extended his point streak to five games.