Detroit — Looking at the statistics, one wonders where Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk would be if he'd been healthy all the way up to this point in the schedule.
Datsyuk's start to the season was delayed because of a separated shoulder suffered in the first exhibition game in September. Then he missed 11 games with a sore groin.
But here he is, averaging more than a point per game (15 points in 13 games), with nine goals and six assists, and looking as determined as ever to wipe the bad taste of last season away.
"Pretty amazing," said Stephen Weiss, who was a linemate of Datsyuk's recently and got to see the wizardry up close. "He's a special player.
"I haven't played with a player like that in my career. Just so talented, and he hasn't missed a beat. He's pretty impressive."
Datsyuk has four goals (a pair of two-goal games) in the three games since returning after missing four games with the groin injury.
What seems to be fueling Datsyuk this season is the memory of last season's frustration, missing half the regular season with knee problems, and not being able to carry the Red Wings the way he's accustomed to doing.
"Nobody likes watching lots of games on the TV and thinking about how you can help the team," Datsyuk said. "But you can't because you have an injury. It was disappointing.
"I didn't like last season."
Last season, Weiss was looking forward to playing his former team, the Panthers.
A year later, there's no such anticipation because few of the current Panthers were with the team when Weiss was there two seasons ago.
"This year it's just another game," said Weiss, the Panthers' career leader in games (654) and assists (249). "It's pretty much a new team."
Justin Abdelkader (shoulder) will not play Tuesday against Florida and remains day to day, coach Mike Babcock said.
… Johan Franzen took Abdelkader's place on a line with Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Tomas Jurco took Franzen's place on the Darren Helm line, with Weiss on the wing, and Joakim Andersson re-entered the lineup, skating with Drew Miller and Luke Glendening.
Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Tatar remained untouched.
… Defenseman Joe Hicketts is the lone Red Wings prospect invited to Canada's world junior camp, the roster for which was released Monday morning.
… Ten of the Red Wings' 14 games this month will be at Joe Louis Arena, giving them a terrific chance to build their record and secure playoff contention. But Babcock isn't looking that far ahead.
"I can talk about the importance of the next game," he said. "I know there's a lot of red on the schedule, which means we're at home. But the reality is we focus on tomorrow. Get off to a good start tomorrow and everything will look after itself."
Panthers at Red Wings
Faceoff: 7:30 Tuesday night, Joe Louis Arena, Detroit
Outlook: It's the first game between the Atlantic Division rivals. ... Returning to Florida has energized G Roberto Luongo (.927 save percentage). ... C Nick Bjugstad (eight goals) leads the Panthers.