Pavel Datsyuk has been out since the Winter Classic on Jan. 1. (David Guralnick / Detroit News)
Sunrise, Fla. —There was enough sitting. It was time for Pavel Datsyuk to play.
Datsyuk tested his lower body injury one last time during Thursday’s morning skate, and there were no issues.
So, Datsyuk was in the Red Wings lineup against Florida after missing 14 games. The last time Datsyuk played was Jan. 1 in the Winter Classic.
“Sooner or later, I have to start (playing),” said Datsyuk, who is believed to have some sort of knee injury. “(I’ve been) waiting enough. Now we’ll see what happens.
“I’m hoping I’m in good shape to play and nothing will bother me.”
It didn’t seem like it after Thursday’s 3-1 victory over the Panthers. Datsyuk played 13 minutes 34 seconds, had a minus-1 rating and one shot on net in the victory.
Datsyuk skated on a line with Darren Helm and Daniel Alfredsson.
“He gives the team so much on both ends of the ice,” said Alfredsson, who had a power play goal. “He’s so smart and makes life so much easier for everyone else around him.”
With the hockey portion of the Winter Olympics beginning next week in Datsyuk’s home country of Russia, there’s been speculation he has been waiting to heal so he can be ready for the Olympics. He is the Russian captain.
“It’s more important to play (right now),” Datsyuk said.
Coach Mike Babcock trusts Datsyuk’s instincts in terms of if he’s ready to play.
“He wants to play bad but he’s a smart guy and he’s not going to jeopardize his career,” Babcock said. “I hope he’s actually ready and we’re going to find out. One thing about getting back on the ice, you can’t hide out there.
“They (injured players) have to make a decision (when to play). That’s what injured players do.”
Even with all that time off, Datsyuk is still second on the team with 15 goals, and has 32 points.
With Helm and Datsyuk playing together, they can divide some responsibilities, which will lessen the skating impact for Datsyuk.
“(He) can play some center and help me backcheck and forecheck, and it’s much easier for me,” Datsyuk said.
With the current success of the other three lines, Babcock wanted to keep as much stability as possible.
“I have two lines doing real good. Why would I have a guy who is coming back and isn’t in the mix? He has to be part of it, not in the way of it,” Babcock said. “As good a player as he is, he’s been out a long time.”
Helm is still looking for his first point in nine games since returning from a groin injury “It’s taken me a little while to get back into a rhythm again,” Helm said. “I’m not doing as well as I want to be doing, especially in the defensive zone.
“I knew it was going to happen. Just grinding through it.”
Having Datsyuk as a linemate could get Helm on track.
“I just want to use my speed, open up the ice for him a little bit, let him make plays, get the puck to him,” Helm said .”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.”
Back to work
Goalie Jonas Gustavsson has had no issues since leaving Monday’s game after one period because of dizziness.
Gustavsson backed up Jimmy Howard on Thursday against the Panthers.
“I was pretty dizzy, lightheaded,” said Gustavsson of Monday’s game against Vancouver. “I couldn’t really focus. I don’t know what it was. Things settled down pretty quickly.
“They did a few tests and all was fine.”
Babcock, who will coach Canada in the Olympics, said the roster added a fine player in Martin St. Louis, who replaced Steven Stamkos (leg).
“He’s a dynamic player, scorer, but he’s also tenacious on the puck,” Babcock said. “He has high octane speed. We need him, he’s a competitor.”
… Patrick Eaves was a healthy scratch.