SAN JOSE, Calif.
– For the first time since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery last month, center Pavel Datsyuk
will be back in the lineup when the Red Wings face-off against the San Jose Sharks tonight at HP Pavilion.
Datsyuk’s return couldn’t come at a better time with six players out of the lineup nursing various injuries, including captain Nicklas Lidstrom
, who was sent home from the current road trip to rest his badly bruised right ankle. He will have the ankle re-evaluated by team doctors on Monday.
Despite missing 11 games, Datsyuk is tied with Henrik Zetterberg
for the team lead in points with 59.
“He can make anybody better,” Danny Cleary
said of Datsyuk. “We're down some guys. Whoever's in the lineup is going to go. We need to get a win, we're a desperate team.”
With Johan Franzen
set to miss his first game of the season with back spasms tonight, Cleary will fill the big power forward’s role on the Wings’ top line with Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi
The hope is that Datsyuk will be back to mid-season form quickly, but his teammates think it may take a little time for the Russian star to fully return to his usual Datsyukian levels.
“Pav brings everything to the table,” Bertuzzi said. “He's that much more gifted that anyone else. At the same time it'll take a little bit of time for him to get his legs back under him. When you're out 2-3 weeks it takes a little time to get adjusted but he's much needed. He'll be another offensive weapon that we need.”
Without Datsyuk in the lineup the Wings have posted a 3-7-1 record with a plus-5 goals differential at even-strength. The power play has also suffered in his absence, going just 3-for 44.
“We need other lines starting to score and contribute, to,” Bertuzzi said. “The Zetterberg line's been playing very well. We just got to get our other lines working and producing and playing smarter, so he'll just bring more depth.”
Datsyuk has work diligently to get back into playing shape with an eye on being back in rhythm for the playoffs, which begin in the second week of April.
“It's enough time to get back in my kind of shape and everything, but we see,” Datsyuk said Saturday after the Wings’ morning skate. “It's hard to say. Sometimes it's enough, sometimes it's not enough. I hope so I'll be 100 (percent).”
The Wings are looking for their second straight win over the Sharks, after dropping the first two meeting of the year. But the players know that it would be easy tonight against a Sharks team that they know all too well.
“Games against them are always important, always big games,” Bertuzzi said. “At the point we're at right now it doesn't really matter who we face. We need two points. Got to get ourselves back to playing the way we know how.”
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