Detroit — The Red Wings hoped to play the season without the pox of injuries that descended on them in recent years, but the results have been mixed so far.
Coach Mike Babcock expects Pavel Datsyuk to return to the lineup Wednesday against the Flyers for a 7:30 p.m. game at Joe Louis Arena.
One of the Wings' prime offensive threats and among the best defensive forwards in the NHL, Datsyuk missed four games with a reinjured groin, after missing two games Nov. 7 and 9, against the Devils and Lightning, with the original injury.
Groins being groins, and perhaps 36-year-olds being 36-year-olds, Datsyuk and the Red Wings seem to be exercising considerable care in the hope his groin will not be a recurrent problem this season, as the team plays the 22nd of 82 games Thursday.
"I think so," Babcock said, when asked after the morning skate whether the star would play. "Did you guys talk to him? I assume he is."
Datsyuk had gone behind the curtains in the dressing room, and was not immediately available. He said recently he was exercising care about returning too soon, as he believes not doing so led to him injuring his groin again. Datsyuk also said he was trying to regain some speed in practice.
The Flyers are 1-3-1 in their last five games, and 8-9-3 on the season, compared to 3-2-0 for the Red Wings and 11-5-5. But the Flyers beat the Wings, 4-2, in their only previous game against Detroit this season, Oct. 25 in Philadelphia.
The Red Wings were generally pleased with their effort in that game but displeased with the outcome. They outshot the Flyers, 37-17, but only managed two goals, by Datsyuk and Riley Sheahan.
The Flyers are large, and their big offensive threats, Jakub Voracek (seven goals, 22 assists) and Claude Giroux (six goals, 18 assists) are highly skilled.
"I think Voracek is obviously one of those guys who is a huge talent," Babcock said. "We used to play against him in Columbus. He was still a boy. He wasn't as big and heavy as he is now. And now, he protect the puck and spins down low.
"And obviously, Giroux, we know who he is."
While there is much talk around the NHL that stopping the two big stars is the key to defeating the Flyers, players like Brayden Schenn (seven goals, eight assists), Wayne Simmonds (eight goals, six assists) and Sean Couturier (four goals, four assists) are also threats to score.
"Schenn was a high-end player coming out of junior and is now evolving into a hockey player," Babcock said. "So, they have a lot of guys who have ability, there, for sure. When you look at Simmonds, you look at Couturier, they've got some big bodies out there for sure."