Pavel Datsyuk is back.
Detroit’s leading goalscorer will return to the lineup on Tuesday — for the first time in seven games — when the Wings take on the Panthers in Florida. Datsyuk, who hasn’t played since suffering a head injury against Ottawa on Nov. 23, will rejoin a Red Wings team that’s caught fire recently — they went 5-2-0 in the seven games sans Datsyuk, with Johan Franzen leading the way with nine points.
“I thought Franzen was a star when Pav was out,” head coach Mike Babcock told the Detroit Free Press. “Leadership-wise, determination-wise, how he played. Now that’s the bench mark. You don’t go back to the other guy. You continue to be what you’ve been. He should be proud of how he played, and now we need him to keep playing like that.”
Things should continue to roll for Franzen, as he’ll be centered by Datsyuk on Tuesday — but that won’t be the only line of note. The Tomas Tatar-Gustav Nyquist-Joakim Andersson unit also impressed over the last seven games and earned high praise from Babcock.
As for how Datsyuk is feeling after so much time off?
“Feel OK,” he said. “Out of shape, but OK.”