The Detroit Red Wings look to be getting an emotional boost heading into Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final on Saturday.
Hart Trophy candidate Pavel Datsyuk, who has missed seven straight games this post-season, is set to return to the Wings' lineup Saturday, barring a setback.
"He'll play," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said on Friday.
While Detroit has yet to reveal the extent of the injury, describing it simply as a 'lower-body' injury; speculation is that Datsyuk suffered a fractured bone in his foot during Game 2 of the Wings' Western Conference finals series against the Blackhawks.
The prospects of a return to the lineup by the Russian superstar looked good for Game 4 on Thursday as he took the Wings' optional skate in the morning with the team's "Black Aces." The Russian sniper then also took the pre-game skate before deciding that he was unable to go. His absence was felt as the Wings dropped a 4-2 decision to the Penguins which allowed Pittsburgh to even the series at two games apiece.
"Well, you know, first thing is prior to yesterday's game, we were hoping Pav was going to be in, but we weren't planning," Mike Babcock stated. "Now we're hoping Pav's going to be in and we're planning that he's going to be in."
Being able to draw Datsyuk back into the lineup would greatly aid the Wings in attempting to halt the momentum that Pittsburgh has been able to build in the past two games. While slick skating superstar is known primarily as an offensive threat, he is also one of the best two-way forwards in the league having captured the Frank J. Selke trophy last year as the NHL's top defensive forward. He is nominated for the award once again this year.
While Detroit has been able to limit Sidney Crosby to three points in the series thanks to a blanketing checking effort by Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom, the addition of Datsyuk could give the Red Wings another body to shadow Malkin who has been the Pens' most dangerous player in the series. Zetterberg would certainly welcome some additional help as he looked fatigued in Game 4, giving up some very uncharacteristic turnovers leading to several Penguins chances.
"Well, we'd like Pav to have the puck for 18 or 20 minutes like he normally does. That's a great concept. When he has the puck, they don't have it," Babcock said. "It's not even playing defense, you just have the puck. You don't have to worry about it. Plus you're faster coming out of your scone. You're faster for the neutral zone."
When asked what rule Datsyuk would play on special teams, Babcock said a lot would depend on what the Russian could bring to the ice.
"[Datsyuk] missed a chunk of time. Is he capable of those situations? Is he playing on the wing or is he playing in the middle? You know, all those things," Babcock told the media. "We'll see. I don't know the answer, and I'm being honest with you, just because until I see them play, I won't know."
To ease some of the burden, Babcock will likely place Datsyuk on the wing where he will not be forced to take faceoffs or assume all of the defensive responsibilities as he would in his traditional centre spot.