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Notebook: Datsyuk set to return

by Dave Burke / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – The Red Wings get a needed dose of offense back to their lineup Monday when superstar Pavel Datsyuk makes his return against the New York Rangers at Joe Louis Arena.

Datsyuk has been out since Dec. 22 when he broke his right hand against Western Conference leading Vancouver. He’s missed the last 19 games.

The Wings have done a nice job keeping their heads above water dealing with Datsyuk’s absence, along with a host of injuries to other key players. Since Datsyuk’s injury the Wings have gone 10-7-2, but are in desperate need of some offense after being shut out, 3-0, in their last two games on back-to-back nights to Columbus and Nashville.

“Every day feels much better and better,” Datsyuk said. “I appreciate Coach giving me one more day, shooting feels good.” Datsyuk will center a line with Danny Cleary and Jiri Hudler.

The Wings are eager to Datsyuk back on the ice, starting with the captain.

“It’s gonna give us a big boost for sure. He’ll be a big help to the team,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “He helps out defensively and we know what he can do one-on-one. Playing behind him is fun to watch, he makes it look easy to score and we all know it’s not easy to score in this league.”

It is hard to believe that Datsyuk is already in his ninth season, but he is being looked up to more and more with the recent influx of youth to the teams third and fourth lines.

“He does things that most players can’t imagine doing,” forward Justin Abdelkader said. “He works hard in the gym and it’s been an honor to be his teammate.”

Wings coach Mike Babcock thinks Datsyuk’s return will provide a needed boost of energy.

“We haven’t played well lately, so it will be nice to get some energy in the lineup,” Babcock said. “The guys playing right now need to play better as well.” 

The numbers show why losing a player of Datsyuk’s caliber can stall a team. Before going down with the injury, Datsyuk was putting up MVP-like numbers with 12 goals and 27 assists in 33 games.  

With Datsyuk’s return, the Wings have sent left winger Jan Mursak back to Grand Rapids, but not after leaving a lasting impression.

“He’s excellent, been excellent for us,” Babcock said. “He’s an NHL player, plays with speed, tenacity.  He’s on the puck, he’ll play for us.”    
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