Pavel Datsyuk will make his return to the Wings’ lineup tonight against the Florida Panthers.
Wings coach Mike Babcock hope he’s not rushing back just to participate in the Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
“I just hope we’re doing the right thing,” Babcock said. “I hope we’re not bringing him back just because it’s the Olympics. I hope he’s actually ready. We’re going to find out. One thing about getting back on the ice, you can’t hide out there.”
Datsyuk has not played since the Winter Classic, missing 14 straight games due to some sort of knee injury.
“It’s in his country, he wants to play bad, but he’s a smart guy, he isn’t going to jeopardize his career over something like this,” Babcock said. “(That) makes no sense. So we’ve got to trust him. Same way it happens all the time. You trust them. In the end they make the decision. That’s what injured players do.”
Datsyuk is the captain of the Russian team.
“Of course I needed a couple games but it’s more important to make sure I play,” Datsyuk said. “(The) toughest thing is watching games in locker room, but now I’m hoping I’m in good shape to play and nothing bothers me.”
Datsyuk has practiced frequently with the team since the injury.
He’ll skate on a line with Daniel Alfredsson and Darren Helm.
“He’s one of the best players in the league, in the world,” Helm said. “He’s dangerous whenever he’s on the ice. With him back, me and Alfie have been playing pretty well together, haven’t been doing too well on the score sheet, but doing all right. With Pav in there that should add another element. Hopefully we can click together and get some chemistry back and be effective.
“I just want to use my speed out there, open up the ice for him a little bit, let him make plays, get the puck to him,” Helm continued. “He’s a pretty skilled guy with the puck. I just want to let him do his thing and help him out when he needs some help.”
Datsyuk said Wednesday that wanting to play in the Olympics hasn’t put any extra pressure on himself.
“Anytime you have one of the best players in the league back in the lineup it’s going to give the guys even more confidence out there,” Niklas Kronwall said. “I know he’s very excited. He looks like he’s doing OK. Hoping when he gets out there he’s feeling comfortable enough to do his things.”
Datsyuk was added to a line with Helm mainly because of his speed.
“That’s what we think, Alfredsson’s a good player, Helm’s a good player, Pavel’s a good player; why can’t that work?” Babcock said. “We got our Z line going good, we got our Sheahan line going good, we got Glenny’s line going good. That other line wasn’t going anyway.”
Detroit also plays at Tampa Bay Saturday before the Olympic break.
“I’ve got two lines that are going real good,” Babcock said. “We’ve got something going. He’s got to be a part of it, can’t be in the way of it. So as good a player as he is he’s been out a long time.”