DETROIT >> You ask Pavel Datsyuk’s teammates to best describe the type of player he is and what he means to the Detroit Red Wings and they all have trouble finding the proper adjective or adjectives to use.
“He’s a special player,” Gustav Nyquist said. “It’s amazing what he can do with the puck. He means a lot to this team.
“He’s a good … pretty good player,” Nyquist added as he shook his head.
“He’s been unbelievable,” Joakim Andersson said. “He’s good every game. He’s so good holding onto the puck and so strong defensively. He does it all.”
“He’s got great hockey sense,” Jimmy Howard said. “He just puts himself in great spots to succeed. He thinks the game differently than anyone.”
Datsyuk, who was named the NHL’s first star from last week, is tied for the team lead with 12 goals and second on the team in points with 22. He’s also got a team-best plus-9 rating.
Age and injuries haven’t slowed down Datsyuk, 36.
To start the season, Datsyuk missed four weeks after suffering a separated shoulder in the preseason opener. In his return, he recorded points in six consecutive games.
“That’s Pav,” Howard said. “He’s so gifted, he’s so talented that he’s able to take a week off and most guys would need a couple of games to get the rust off but he’s out there and looks like normal Pav.”
Next, he sat out four games in a row and six-of-eight with a pulled groin. In his return, he scored two goals in his first game back.
“Since he’s been back you don’t notice he’s been hurt,” Andersson said. “Most guys it takes a few games to get their legs back and going again.”
And for the first time in his 12-year career Datsyuk is scoring more goals (12) than he has set up (10 assists). He ranks seventh in the league in shooting percentage at 26.7, (12 goals on 45 shots).
“Pav is Pav,” Niklas Kronwall said. “I don’t know how you explain it, really. When he goes out there feeling good, he’s one of the best in the league. And he shows it night after night.”
“Obviously, we’re happy to have him playing,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “When he’s out there he’s such a big part of our team, we need him to play games. When he’s doing that he’s been on fire. Not just production. Overall the way he plays out there, offensively, defensively.”
Datsyuk has a three two-goal games this season and eight multi-point games, including a one goal and two assist game Sunday.
“He’s a special guy,” Stephen Weiss said. It’s not easy to do when you’ve missed consecutive games like that and a couple weeks and to come back and produce like that it’s a pretty amazing player.”
Weiss got to play wing for Datsyuk when he returned from a groin injury on Nov. 26 and witnessed a two-goal game from him.
“I haven’t been able to play with anyone like that in my career before,” Weiss said. “He’s amazing. He’s just so talented and seems to not miss a beat.
“I ask him after every game how he feels and he says, ‘Uh, OK,’” Weiss continued. “And he scored two goals. That’s pretty impressive.”
Despite producing more than a point per game this season, Datsyuk still is committed to playing defense first which has helped lead him to three Selke trophies as the league’s top defensive forward.
“First priority is defense,” Datsyuk said. “More defense, (equals) more offense.”