Detroit – Everything seems in place for Pavel Datsyuk to make his return to the Red Wings' lineup Tuesday in Montreal.
During practice Monday he skated on the top line with Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader, and he played on the No. 1 power-play unit.
Also, a roster space has been cleared. The Wings placed forward Johan Franzen on short-term IR with a groin injury.
Yet, both Datsyuk and coach Mike Babcock wouldn't fully commit to him playing Tuesday night.
"Day to day," Datsyuk said with a wry smile. "I played today and it was fine. We will see after the (morning) skate tomorrow."
Babcock has been down this road before.
"He's looked great in practice for a while," he said. "I don't know if he's playing or not. We are prepared. We had him on a line today, but I had him on a line last Monday, too."
Datsyuk, who was limited to 47 games because of a knee injury last season, injured his shoulder during the team's first exhibition game against the Penguins on Sept. 22. The initial prognosis was that he'd miss four weeks.
This is the beginning of the fourth week. Clearly, his teammates expect and are excited to have Datsyuk in the lineup in Montreal.
"We've missed Pav," said forward Tomas Tatar. "Just to have him in the lineup before every game is huge for us. They have to be aware of him. He's a danger; just the name, he's a danger for the other team."
In the event Datsyuk does play, Babcock has shuffled the second and third lines. Gustav Nyquist, the team's leading scorer through five games, practiced with the second line Monday with Riley Sheahan and Tatar.
Tomas Jurco, who had been on the second line, was dropped to the third line with Darren Helm and Andrej Nestrasil.
"We knew with Pav coming back there would be some changes," Sheahan said. "Nyquist has really been producing. He's an unbelievable goal scorer so it'll be good to play with him. Sometimes it's good to switch things up."
As for Franzen, he left the game in Toronto on Friday with what was called leg spasms. He didn't play Saturday and was getting treatment on Monday. General manager Ken Holland placed him on the seven-day IR.
He will miss at least the next three games – at Montreal, home against Pittsburgh Thursday and at Philadelphia Saturday.
Goalie Jimmy Howard, who sat out the game Saturday as a precaution against a sore groin, practiced on Monday and is set to start Tuesday night. Goalie Petr Mrazek was sent back to Grand Rapids.
Chris McCosky is on Twitter @cmccosky.
Red Wings at Canadiens
Faceoff: 7:30 tonight, Bell Centre, Montreal
Records: Canadiens (5-1), Red Wings (3-1-1)
Update: The Canadiens are off to their best start since the 1977-78 season. Oddly though, despite being 5-1 and leading the Atlantic Division, their overall goal differential is zero – 20 goals for, 20 against. Centers Tomas Plekanec (4 goals, 3 assists) and Alex Galchenyuk (2 goals, 4 assists) lead the offense, along with defenseman P.K. Subban (3 goals and 1 assist).