DETROIT >> The center of attention, so to speak, in Wednesday’s Wings home game against the Philadelphia Flyers will be their third line.
Pavel Datsyuk will center Darren Helm and Stephen Weiss.
All three are natural centers.
“We might be the only line in the NHL with three natural centers, so we should have success on the dot, hopefully, and some pretty good skill with Pav and Weisser,” Helm said. “We have to find a way to click pretty early.
“There are definitely some different aspects to our games that could gel together if we find a way to click, and it is exciting for me at least, playing with those two skilled, confident guys,” Helm continued. “If we find a way to click or gel it will be fun and pretty exciting.”
Datsyuk has missed his four straight games with a groin injury and six of the last eight.
“It’s very important for us to have him back,” Weiss said. “It’s a big boost to our lineup to have him back. Anytime he misses a game, it seems like it’s too long.”
Former Wing Kris Draper said playing on a line with Datsyuk was like winning the lottery.
“It definitely feels that way,” Weiss said. “When I saw the sheet this morning I had a little grin on my face. He makes the game a lot easier for the guys that play around him.”
Datsyuk is considered one of the best two-way players in the game if not the best.
“His ability to get the puck back is just one of the skill sets that separate him from a lot of other guys in the league, his ability to play defensively and steal pucks and turn it into offense,” Weiss said.
Datsyuk has been limited to 45 games in 2013-14 due to a knee injury and concussion. This season he’s already missed 11 of 21 games due to a separated shoulder and groin pull.
“He’s a guy I grew up watching, really and now to have a chance to play with him, it’s pretty cool,” Weiss said. “But you can’t be worried about that too much. I’ve just got to worry about what I’ve got to do and hopefully we can find some chemistry, the three of us.”
Datsyuk has five goals and six assists in 10 games this season.
“I thought initially it took him a bit to get back and then he was on fire and got hurt again,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “The big thing for Pav is as you get a little older in your career your physical fitness and the amount of care you take in keeping your body healthy is so important.
“He’s a high-end player for us,” Babcock continued. “I haven’t put him with (Henrik Zetterberg) on purpose just because … if he gets going maybe I’ll do that but right now leave him where he is and play him on a separate power play. I don’t think you can ever go wrong with having Datsyuk in your lineup.”
Not only is the line all centers, but they’ve all missed significant playing time over the past three seasons, combining to miss 306 regular-season games over that span – Weiss (140), Helm (83), Datsyuk (83).
Weiss had two goals in his return to the lineup Monday, doubling his output since joining the Wings two off-seasons ago.
“All signs are pointing towards being over the hump,” Weiss said.