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Hart candidate Datsyuk may play in Game 4

Wednesday, 06.3.2009 / 4:19 PM ET / News
By Christy Hammond  - Community Relations Manager
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Hart candidate Datsyuk may play in Game 4
PITTSBURGH -- Hart finalist Pavel Datsyuk practiced with the team Wednesday for the first time since he suffered an injury in Game 2 during the Western Conference Finals. The Russian forward had previously skated and really noticed an improvement by Tuesday morning, but still wasn’t ready to play in Game 3.

Datsyuk’s participation in practice does not guarantee that he will play Thursday night, but it’s certainly an encouraging sign for his team.

“What we'll do is we'll go for the optional skate in the morning and see how he responded today and see how he felt,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said.

Datsyuk was all smiles at Wednesday’s afternoon practice, centering a line with Valtteri Filppula and Marian Hossa during drills.

“He looked good out there today,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “Today was the best so far he looked out there and like I said he had a big smile on his face all practice so that was good to see.”

His return would not only boost the team offensively, but would be a welcome relief for Zetterberg on the defensive end. Hank logged a whopping 24:19 minutes of ice time in Tuesday’s loss as Babcock tried to get Zetterberg out against Sidney Crosby as much as possible, resulting in some double shifts for the forward. Datsyuk’s presence in the lineup would allow Babcock to pair up Datsyuk’s line against Evgeni Malkin’s line.

“He’s going to be a big boost for us if he comes back,” Zetterberg said. “Pav is really good on both ends of the ice and he plays a lot of minutes so he’ll help us all including me.”

When asked if he would play as a winger rather than a center due to his injury, Datsyuk replied by saying, “I think at any center, defenseman, I want to play so bad. I don't want to watch this game again.”

His teammates are just relieved to know that their star is close to returning to the lineup.

“To me we've played long enough without them,” netminder Chris Osgood said. “We've played five games in eight days without Pav, and to me, that's long enough. We've made it this far, but we don't want to take any more chances.”

OTHER ROSTER UPDATES: Center Kris Draper will return to the lineup in Game 4, but Babcock has yet to decide which player Draper will replace. At practice Draper centered a line with Ville Leino and Kirk Maltby, indicating that Justin Abdelkader would be pulled from the lineup.

The veteran forward led Detroit during the regular season with a 60.3 face-off win percentage so his poise in the face-off circle will certainly help the Wings.

 “He wins a lot of face-offs for us, is out there killing penalties,” captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “He would help us if he’s able to go.”

Tomas Holmstrom and Brian Rafalski missed practice on Wednesday, but they are both available for tomorrow’s game. Babcock told reporters that at this point in the playoffs, every practice is optional.

THIRD PERIOD SURPRISE: While the Wings have scored more goals in the second period than any other frame this postseason, the third period has been Detroit’s most dominant as the team has outscored its opponents 17-6 in the final stanza during the first three rounds.

The Stanley Cup finals has been a different story for the Red Wings as Pittsburgh outshot the Wings a combined 33-14 in the first three games. Osgood weathered the storm in Games 1 and 2, but was unable to hold the Penguins off in the third period of Game 3 when Pittsburgh scored twice including an empty-netter. Detroit looks to return to its usual dominant postseason form in the third period on Thursday.

SCHEDULE

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AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
H. Zetterberg 82 13 37 -15 50
D. Larkin 80 23 22 11 45
T. Tatar 81 21 24 4 45
G. Nyquist 82 17 26 -2 43
J. Abdelkader 82 19 23 -16 42
M. Green 74 7 28 -6 35
B. Richards 68 10 18 4 28
D. Helm 77 13 13 -2 26
N. Kronwall 64 3 23 -21 26
R. Sheahan 81 14 11 -8 25
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Mrazek 27 16 6 .921 2.33
J. Howard 14 14 5 .906 2.80