At 35, Datsyuk still one of the league’s best two-way players

DETROIT – Even at age 35, Pavel Datsyuk is still one of the best two-way forwards in the league.

“Some days it hit me, but I don’t want to start thinking about age,” Datsyuk said. “I’m thinking about how I change my (driver’s license) to be younger.”

Datsyuk, who signed a three-year extension for $22.5 million this offseason, sits next to Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm in the locker room. Both are 26 years old.

“They keep me younger,” Datsyuk smiled. “Right now I’m like oldest player on the team.”

Datsyuk is actually the fourth oldest on the team, behind Daniel Alfredsson (40), Todd Bertuzzi (38) and Mikael Samuelsson (36).

“He’s not 20 anymore,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “They’re still young enough I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Your window of opportunity as an athlete, if you’re going to be the main players, is only so long. That gets shorter. If you’re going to be a secondary or third-tier player you can do that until you’re 42. To be the main guys, driving the bus, time runs out. That’s just the way it is. That’s life.”

Datsyuk’s time in his prime is not over by any means. He signed a three-year, $22.5 million extension in the offseason, which kicks in at the start of 2014-15.

The Red Wings expect he will continue playing at a high level until the contract expires in 2017, just a couple of months before his 39th birthday.

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