Jimmy Howard will start Thursday night after a one-game absence. (David Guralnick / Detroit News)
Detroit – It’s nice that Pavel Datsyuk is going to captain the Russian Olympic team, but of more importance to the Red Wings is that he’s not ready to play Thursday in New York.
Whatever lower-body issue is troubling Datsyuk – it was supposed to be a “day-to-day” injury -- will now have caused him to miss five consecutive games.
“(I wasn’t) expecting this way,” said Datsyuk after Wednesday’s practice, of which he was not a participant. “I thought I’d miss one game and come back. But it’s not feeling great. I just have to fight through.”
Datsyuk isn’t likely to even make the trip to New York to play the Rangers. He wasn’t sure about his availability for Saturday’s home game against the Kings.
“(Take a) couple of days (off) and we’ll see when the team comes back,” Datsyuk said.
Datsyuk was honored to hear about being named captain for the upcoming Olympics in his home country.
“It’s an honor and I’m humbled, representing the Russian team,” Datsyuk said. “Especially (we’re) the home country. There’s a lot of pressure on us but I’m so happy.”
For many, Datsyuk seemed the obvious choice to be named captain.
“He’s the perfect guy to settle things down and make sure they stay focused on the right things,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said.
Datsyuk (Russia) and forward Henrik Zetterberg (Sweden) are two Red Wings named captains for their countries.
“It’s a great honor for him and Z,” coach Mike Babcock said.
Howard only Wing returning
Even with three days off between games, goalie Jimmy Howard (hip flexor) is the lone returnee to the lineup against the Rangers. Howard will start Thursday night.
“No possibility of getting anybody back,” Babcock said.
Datsyuk, Darren Helm (groin), Johan Franzen (concussion), Daniel Alfredsson (back spasms) and Jonas Gustavsson (groin) all will be unavailable.
“I’ve said this a number of times this year, enough to make me want to puke,” Babcock said. “I’m going to focus on the players that are here.”
Jurco in lineup
With forward Tomas Tatar in Slovakia for the funeral of his father, Tomas Jurco will replace Tatar in the lineup.
“He’s a big, talented guy who can skate and is pushing for a job on our team,” said Babcock of Jurco, who had two goals and an assist in seven games earlier this season. “He did a real good job (last time) and gets another opportunity this time. The big thing for him is to make sure we can’t send him back.”
What does Babcock want to see out of a power play that hasn’t scored in its last 21 opportunities?
“I’d like to see get us get in the inside, shoot the puck and actually want to be a shooter, and get some second chances,” Babcock said. “Your ability to get it (the puck) back is also critical to having a successful power play. Win faceoffs, get the puck back and be shooting; you can’t pass it around.”
... After early-season struggles, it appears Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist has regained his top form.
“Early he wasn’t quite as good as he normally is,” Babcock said. “To me, goaltending is everything. When you have it, you don’t think about it. When you don’t have it, it’s everything.”
Red Wings at Rangers
Faceoff: 7 p.m.
TV/radio: Fox Sports Detroit / 97.1 FM and 1270 AM.
Records: Red Wings 20-16-10, 50 points; Rangers 24-21-3 51 points.
Notable: The Rangers won the only previous games between the teams this season. ... Going 6-3-1 over their last 10 games, the Rangers have passed the Red Wings in the East standings. ... New York ranks sixth on the power play (21.1 percent). ... G Henrik Lundqvist (15-17-3, .911 save percentage) is rebounding from a slow start.