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No surprise: Datsyuk is Selke finalist

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
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DETROIT – Though he played in 25 fewer games this season than he’d averaged the previous three seasons, Pavel Datsyuk is still widely considered to be one of the top defensive forwards in the game.

That speaks volumes for a guy who has been awarded the Frank J. Selke Trophy three years running when he only missed a combined three games.

On Wednesday, the NHL announced the finalists for this year’s Selke, and it was no real surprise that the Wings’ center topped the list. The Russian superstar is joined by a pair of fellow centers: Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler and Chicago’s Jonathan Toews. Kesler finished as a Selke runner-up to Datsyuk last season.

If Datsyuk should again win the Selke – which will be announced at the NHL Award Show in Las Vegas on June 22 – he’ll become the first player to win four years in a row since Montreal’s Bob Gainey did so, beginning with the inaugural presentation in 1978.

Between 2006-07 and 2009-10, Datsyuk was the only player to finish each season among the league’s top five in takeaways. He was first in three of the seasons, with 2008-09 being the lone exception when he was second to Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin by five steals.

This season, injuries kept Datsyuk out of the Wings’ lineup for stretches, limiting the puck thief to 71, which landed him 11th in the NHL category, behind Toews (93), but in front of Kesler (65).

Datsyuk still finished third on the Wings in scoring with 23 goals and 36 assists, behind Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom. Datsyuk posted a +11-rating and led the team with a 54.6 percent face-off winning percentage, the seventh straight season that he has been above 53 percent in the circle.

Kesler was also third on the Canucks in scoring – behind the Sedin twins – with 41 goals (career-high) and 32 assists. Meanwhile, Toews led the Blackhawks in scoring for the first time in his career with 32 goals and 44 assists.

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