Detroit hopes Datsyuk's return sparks club

The Sports Xchange

The Red Wings don't expect Pavel Datsyuk to step into the lineup after missing three weeks and immediately return to his superstar form.

It will take a few games for him to get comfortable following his Feb. 21 arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. But the Wings expect to see an immediate improvement in the players around him.

Datsyuk was back in action Saturday in San Jose. He made his presence felt by scoring a slick goal at 18:46 of the first period to get his team on the scoreboard. The Wings, however, lost 3-2 in overtime.

But having Datsyuk back will be a big boost to a team that has been relying on one line for most of its offense lately and has gone eight games without a power-play goal.

"Anytime you can get a player of his caliber back in the lineup, it's always a good thing," teammate Niklas Kronwall said. "He's got that presence with him. All the superstars do. Anytime a guy like that comes back, they make their surroundings better."

Datsyuk had a team-high 59 points in 59 games when he was idled. The Wings desperately need him. They are winless in four (0-3-1) and are 3-7-2 in their past 12 heading into Monday's game against Washington at Joe Louis Arena.

"(Datsyuk) will give us another line. By himself he can tow guys along," coach Mike Babcock said. "That's pretty evident, because when he wasn't here, they weren't (productive)."

Datsyuk has 10 more games to prepare for the playoffs, which he said is sufficient time.

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