Soon-to-be-37, Datsyuk showing no signs of lettingup

DETROIT >> The Detroit Red Wings know what they’ve got in Pavel Datsyuk.

Wings coach Mike Babcock is worried about who’ll replace him one day.

“Pav’s a real good player, obviously, and to do what he’s doing, we were able to watch Nick (Lidstrom) do it for a long, long time and to see Pav do it at 30, well he’s just about 37, is great,” Babcock said. “It’s a real honor to be around him. He’s a good, good man. He’s a good teammate. He does it right. He leads by example. He’s better without the puck then he is with it if you can imagine that. He’s a great, great player. They only thing that makes you nervous is if he wasn’t here who’s taking his spot.”

On Tuesday, Datsyuk was named a finalist for the Lady Byng Trophy, awarded to the NHL player “adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”

“When I come here I don’t think too far,” said Datsyuk, whose rookie season was in 2002. “My mind is too small to think too far. I just like enjoy it year by year and I’m happy where I am now.”

Datsyuk, who had just eight penalty minutes all year, had 26 goals and 39 assists in 63 games. His 65 points ranked second on the team despite missing 19 games with injuries.

“It’s impressive,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “If you look back at the years that he’s played in this league he would probably be nominated every year, and have a good chance of winning every year. He’s a special player and it’s awesome to see that he gets rewarded.”

Datsyuk has won the trophy four times (from 2006-09).

“When I first got here they said Pav couldn’t play in the playoffs,” Babcock said. “It’s the evolution of a player and understanding how hard it is in the playoffs. You don’t get much space and if you don’t score people say you can’t play, well I don’t think that’s the case at all he just evolved in it.

“Pav is a real team leader, he does things right and leads by example,” Babcock continued. “He has great thoughts offensively and defensively. He doesn’t mind sharing his opinion with the coach. He’s a treat to be around to say the least. He’s made me a lot better coach just through his vision and how he understands and thinks the game should be played. He’s a great teammate.”

Only Frank Boucher of the New York Rangers (seven) and Wayne Gretzky (five) have won this award more often than Datsyuk. Former Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Red Kelly also won it four times.

“I think it’s the best trophy ever,” Datsyuk said.

Former Wing Jiri Hudler, who’s now with the Calgary Flames, and Los Angeles Kings’ Anze Kopitar are the other two finalists.

“He’s a great player,” Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos said. “He plays well at both ends of the ice. He’s a smart player and obviously we have to be aware of him when he’s out there.”


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