Wings hope for a 'lift' with Datsyuk debuting Friday
Detroit -- Pavel Datsyuk will return to the Red Wings' lineup Friday night, making his season debut.
Datsyuk had surgery to repair ruptured tendons in his ankle in June. He will skate on a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader when the Red Wings face the San Jose Sharks Friday at Joe Louis Arena.
“It’s obviously a lift,” said coach Jeff Blashill. "For a long time he’s been one of the best players in the world. He’s a good piece of the puzzle.”
Blashill has talked in recent days of playing Zetterberg and Datsyuk together. Blashill tested Dylan Larkin on that line during practices but settled on Abdelkader.
“We talked about who would be the best partner with them,” Blashill said. “He had one of his better games against Washington (Tuesday). Abby has been a good mix on that line (before).”
Said Abdelkader of Datsyuk’s return: “It’s going to help the whole team, in every facet. In practice, he looks unbelievable. As a team we’re excited to have him back, he’s going to make us that much better.”
Datsyuk, 37, had 65 points (26 goals) in 63 games last season.
As for reuniting Datsyuk and Zetterberg, the success of the past with the two of them as linemates and the ability to read off each other and be so productive offensively were big reasons in Blashill’s mind to play them together.
But Blashill said it's important for the team to understand that just because Datsyuk is back, everything will be fine with Detroit's offense. The Red Wings are 8-6-1 (17 points) but have only scored 34 goals in 15 games (and allowed 36).
“It’s important we understand we have to continue on the progress we’ve made,” Blashill said. “We can’t get caught up in believing Pavel is the savior. It’s real important for other guys to carry different lines.
“We need more production out of other lines and I want to continue to put it on other people’s shoulders to get it done.”
Larkin will center Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist, Andreas Athanasiou is between Riley Sheahan and Teemu Pulkkinen, while the fourth line stays the same with Luke Glendening centering Drew Miller and Darren Helm.
Moving Sheahan to a wing kept Athanasiou in the lineup.
“Sheahan has the ability to take some defensive zone faceoffs, depending on how AA is doing (on faceoffs),” Blashill said. “AA can do both, play the wing or center, but he’s played more at center and we feel it might be best for his speed.”
Blashill is excited about having Datsyuk and Zetterberg together again.
“They’re two of the smartest players in the NHL and when they play together, those smarts exponentially improve on their output," he said. "That’s not to say they’re not great on their own -- they are. But I’ve seen them together be great.”
To put Datsyuk on the active roster, the Red Wings placed Landon Ferraro (knee) on the short-term injured list.
Smith, Pulkkinen scuffle
Brendan Smith and Teemu Pulkkinen got into a shoving match during a drill in Thursday’s practice. Blashill was fine with the intensity.
“We have highly-competitive people,” Blashill said. “Do I like to see highly-competitive practices? For sure.”
Forward Brad Richards (back) took part in Thursday’s practice, and now has been on the ice for consecutive days.
No timetable for a return has been set, but Richards is optimistic he’s coming along.
“I feel good, a lot better than three weeks ago,” said Richards, who hasn’t played since Oct. 21. “Now it’s the process of slowly climbing the hill to get back to game speed and game shape.
“It’s a mix of things (not just the back). I felt pretty good coming into training camp but as time wore on, your body tells you something is wrong.”
Blashill said he’d set the game roster after Friday’s morning skate. To be determined is whether Smith (illness) returns to the lineup, and whether Jimmy Howard or Petr Mrazek starts in net.
... General manager Ken Holland said Kyle Quincey (ankle, bone chips) will be out 2-3 months after Saturday’s surgery.
Sharks at Red Wings
Faceoff: Friday, 7:30 p.m., Joe Louis Arena
TV / radio: FSD / 97.1 FM, 1270 AM
Outlook: The Sharks (7-8-0, 14 points) have lost two consecutive games and begin a road trip. ... The Sharks are 3-7 in their last 10. ... RW Joel Ward (8 goals, 6 assists) leads offensively, but the Sharks are missing C Logan Couture (leg).