DETROIT – Pavel Datsyuk will miss his fifth straight game tonight when the Red Wings host the Philadelphia Flyers for the second time this season.
Datsyuk, who has been out of the lineup since he was hit in the jaw by Ottawa’s Jared Cowen on Nov. 23, said he doesn’t have anymore symptoms that could be associated with a concussion.
The Russian center participated in the Wings’ morning skate on Wednesday with few limitations, and sounded confident that he’ll be back soon, though it might not be this weekend when the Wings visit New Jersey on Friday and host Florida on Saturday.
While he says he’s symptom-free from what he called his first known concussion, Datsyuk said it will take him some time to get up to game speed.
“With head, yeah, but I’m not doing it in one week,” said Datsyuk, who has 23 points in 24 games this season. “Trying to be safe. Need to come back in shape. … Need to talk to doctor and make a decision.”
For the first time in more than seven years, the Wings will play a game without Datsyuk and his Euro Twin, Henrik Zetterberg, when they host the Flyers at Joe Louis Arena.
Fortunately, the Wings are 4-0-0 in Datsyuk’s absence with lopsided wins over Boston and the New York Islanders last week, though it’s been frustrating for the Wings’ second-leading scorer.
“I’m happy to watch us win, but not happy to watch on TV and sitting alone and watching hockey,” Datsyuk said.
Danny DeKeyser also skated with his teammates on Wednesday and seems well on his way to recovering within the original 4-6 week prognosis.
The Wings’ rookie defenseman has been on long-term injured reserve since suffering a separated shoulder against Nashville on Nov. 19. At the time, doctors told DeKeyser that he would likely be out until Christmas, or later.
“It’s feeling good,” DeKeyser said. “I’ve got a lot of range of motion right now and it seems to be getting a little bit stronger every day and I’m just trying to rehab it and get stronger as fast as I can.”
DeKeyser is eligible to come off IR on Dec. 14 when the Wings host the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, a more realistic goal for his return is probably late December after he regains strength and sharpens his skating with a week or so of team practices.
“I’m just trying to take it as is right now,” DeKeyser said. “When I come off the IR I don’t know if I’ll be ready right away, but I’m just trying to get it ready as quick as I can.”
POWER PLAY: The absence of Datsyuk and Zetterberg will change the look of the Red Wings’ power play against the Flyers.
Coach Mike Babcock plans to use Stephen Weiss, Johan Franzen and Justin Abdelkader up front on the first unit with Niklas Kronwall and Daniel Alfredsson on the point. The second unit will consist of Darren Helm, Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar up front with Jakub Kindl and Mikael Samuelsson on the point.
FAST START WITHOUT STARS: Without some of their major contributors, Babcock said it’s important the Wings start strong against a surging Flyers team that has points in nine of their last 12 games.
“We’ve been without Pav and DeKeyser for a while now,” Babcock said. “Z’s out so let’s play. Let’s play right. It’s a real challenge here for Alfredsson and Kronwall to keep up poise and confidence in the room and on the bench. I think there’s a real challenge for Franzen to be a leader, to lead by example and play real hard. When people are out of your lineup there’s opportunity for someone else. Someone’s going to grab it so let’s see who it is.”
FACING THE FLYERS: Since the 1989-90 season, the Red Wings are 18-1-2 at home against the Flyers, including two games during the 1997 Stanley Cup finals. Philadelphia’s only win in Detroit during that stretch was a 3-2 victory on Jan. 2, 2011. The Flyers have not scored more than three goals at The Joe in 19 consecutive games, since a 9-6 loss to the Wings on Feb. 16, 1990.
This Flyers' squad has points in nine of their last 12 games, though they are 1-3-1 in their last five road games.
"They started the year (with) a number of injuries and now they’ve got people playing," Babcock said. "They’re playing with good structure. Their penalty kill is really good. (Claude) Giroux is a star. (Jakub) Voracek and (Scott) Hartnell on that line, that’s a real strong line. (Sean) Couturier is their matchup center. (Brayden) Schenn is their third line center with Vinny (Lecavalier) out. They’re a real good hockey club. We’re going to have to play real well."
BOUNCE BACK: The recent play of defenseman Brendan Smith has caught the eye of his head coach. Smith has three assists with a plus-5 rating during the Wings’ four-game winning streak.
“I think Smitty’s been great,” Babcock said. “When he makes a mistake it hasn’t turned into three mistakes it’s been one mistake which is a positive, shows signs of confidence and growth. Smith’s a good player. He can really skate. Last game he was in four great chances up the ice for us and was really good defensively so we need him to continue to be good.”
In 18 games this season, Smith has four assists with a minus-5 rating, but with DeKeyser out of the lineup, Smith has gained more responsibility and feeling more confident in key situations.
“I’m getting to play in different positions and different situations, so that’s something that’s definitely good for myself confidence-wise,” Smith said. “That’s something that I’ve got to keep doing. I think I’ve been playing pretty good. I think there’s still room for improvement, but there’s always going to be room for improvement. I just want to keep getting better.”
HBO ON THE GO: A film crew from HBO, an U.S. premium cable and satellite network, returned to Joe Louis Arena to begin production on the four-part series “24/7 Re Wings/Maple Leafs: The Road to the Winter Classic”.
The crew has been in and out of The Joe this season, gathering film to create commercials and other promotional material for the series which is set to debut on Dec. 14.
“I thought they were going to be here more than they have been,” center Joakim Andersson said. “Now that they’re here, obviously, we’re going to notice them. They’ll be around here a lot more.”
HBO plans to clip a wireless microphone to two or three Red Wings' players in each of the next 13 games. Helm and Kronwall are the first who will wear the mics.
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose
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