DETROIT – The Red Wings traveled light to Florida Wednesday afternoon – about 23 goals and 58 points light to be exact.
Center Pavel Datsyuk, who is second on the team in scoring, did not accompany the team on its flight and will miss at least the next two games. The Red Wings play at Florida on Thursday and at Tampa Bay on Friday.
“Nope. Not making the trip,” coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s got a lower-body ache.”
The 36-year-old Datsyuk is one point behind Henrik Zetterberg, who leads the Wings with 16 goals and 59 points in 64 contests.
Despite missing 11 games in the first two months of the season – the first five of the regular season with a shoulder injury and six of eight games with a sore hip in November – Datsyuk has been nothing short of magnificent again this season.
He’s produced eight goals and 23 points with a plus-6 rating in the past 20 games.
The Red Wings return home to host St. Louis in a Sunday matinee. However, Babcock wasn’t sure if Datsyuk will be available for the game against the Blues.
The Wings do hope to have Darren Helm back in the lineup Thursday. He has missed the last seven games with a strained oblique muscle sustained Feb. 28 at Nashville.
Without Datsyuk, the Wings skated with the following line combinations at Wednesday’s 38-minute practice at Joe Louis Arena:
Erik Cole-Henrik Zetterberg-Justin Abdelkader
Tomas Tatar-Riley Sheahan-Darren Helm
Gustav Nyquist-Luke Glendening-Teemu Pulkkinen
Drew Miller-Joakim Andersson-Tomas Jurco.
The Wings have missed Helm’s speed and grinding style that he offered to Datsyuk’s line. Helm will definitely be an asset on Sheahan’s line, especially for Tatar, who leads the team with 25 goals this season.
“Real excited,” said Babcock of Helm’s return. “I thought we had pace today in practice for the first time in a while. I thought we had energy. Whether Helmer is a part of that or not – I think he is – but also our guys seem to be freshened up and we have to play well. Helmer can be a big boost to us. Obviously, a fresh Pavel will be a big boost to us too when he comes back.”
Helm, who had played every game until his rib cage injury, is excited to get back to work.
“It’s never fun sitting and watching no matter what the circumstances are,” said Helm, who averages over a minute of average ice time on the power play and penalty kill. “I’m just excited to get back at it. It’s been seven games too long. I’m ready to go.
Center - DET
Goals: 13 | Assists: 16 | Pts: 29
Shots: 127 | +/-: 8
“I want to be a reliable and accountable player. Hopefully I can come back and add a little bit of a spark, some energy, play fast the way I do and keep things moving in the right direction.”
Helm’s teammates are just as eager to have him back in the lineup.
“Real important, big part of the team,” Zetterberg said. “He plays in all situations, really a speed boost for us. Going to Florida, Tampa back to back he’s going to be a big help for us.”