DETROIT >> Wings coach Mike Babcock has said all along he only spends time worrying about the healthy players on his team.
And that goes for Pavel Datsyuk as well.
Datsyuk could return as early as Wednesday against the Boston Bruins, or at the latest by Friday at home against the Buffalo Sabres.
“I’m going to assess him in the game,” Babcock said after practice Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena. “I think someone told me he’s playing Friday, I don’t know.
“I thought it was up to him (when he would start playing again),” Babcock continued. “I haven’t been involved in those things all year. I spend my time worrying about the players that are playing, so if I hear he’s in tomorrow, I’ll start worrying about him then.”
Datsyuk said he’s a game-time decision for Wednesday’s game.
“We’ll see tomorrow how I feel,” Datsyuk said. “It was (my) first full practice with team. I’m happy to be back with the team. I need a little more time to pick up the pace, pick up everything.”
Asked if Wednesday was possible Datsyuk said. “Tomorrow’s tomorrow. (We’ll) wait for tomorrow.”
The Wings announced they were shutting Datsyuk down for three weeks at the trade deadline to rest his ailing left knee. Last Friday marked that three-week timeframe.
Datsyuk played for Russia at the Olympics, but has only been able to play in two games with the Wings since returning. He last played on Feb. 27.
He’s missed the last 15 games.
“The whole thing is to understand it’s not about Pavel one bit, it’s about the Red Wings and the guys that are playing and we’ve just got to keep grinding. I don’t want to get caught up in that whatsoever, I want to have us keep on working.
Datsyuk has 15 goals and 18 assists in 39 games this season.
“We’ve got to keep doing what we’re doing, keep grinding,” Babcock said. “The players that are here, we’re going to worry about the ones that are dressed. We’re not going to spend a whole bunch of time talking about the ones that aren’t. When they’re dressing then we’ll talk about them.”
Despite not having Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg for a good chunk of the season, the Wings still find themselves in the playoff race. They hold down the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference heading into play Tuesday night.
“To me, he always looks great,” Nyquist said of having Datsyuk take part in practice. “But I don’t think he feels 100 percent shape-wise or anything like that. But he’s so good out there, he’s always good, I think, when he’s on the ice.
“I’m sure he wants to see how it feels with a couple full skates, especially conditioning-wise when you’ve been out for a while, it’s different to be on the bike here and then do some skates without the team,” Nyquist added. “It’s going to take some practice to get in game shape again.”
The Wings have seven games left in the regular season.
“He looks good, but it’s all about how he feels,” Justin Abdelkader said. “He could look good, but if his knee is bothering him. It depends how he feels on the ice, but he looks good.
“Teams key on him,” Abdelkader continued. “They key on him on the power play and 5-on-5. He’s usually going to take the best matchup from the (other team’s) defensemen. He’s a big part of this team. It’ll be huge if he can comeback. If he doesn’t we still have to plug away with the group that we have.”