Pavel Datsyuk has for days been rumored to be returning to the Detroit Red Wings' lineup, but he confirmed it Thursday with a typically understated Tweet:
Even if he's only at 75-or-80-percent capacity – as many NHLers are at this time of year – Datsyuk's return should send shivers through whichever team Detroit winds up facing in the first round (most likely, Sidney Crosby's Pittsburgh Penguins). The injury-riddled Wings have held up remarkably well in the absence of its two best players (Datsyuk and captain Henrik Zetterberg). And ironically enough, the team Datsyuk will rejoin against Buffalo is in some ways stronger than it was when a right knee injury knocked him out of the lineup.
In Datsyuk's last game before being sidelined at the end of February, youngster Gustav Nyquist had 15 goals and 37 points. Since then, he's added 13 goals and 19 points, in the process lessening the burden of Datsyuk to produce by the bucketload when he returns. At the time of Datsyuk's injury, the Wings also had yet to acquire center David Legwand from Nashville – and there's every chance the former Predators captain thrives when Datsyuk returns and there's not as much focus or pressure on him.
If Zetterberg can recover from herniated disk surgery in time for the first round, Detroit will be even more of a handful. But as it stands, Datsyuk's addition, in addition to the changes and improvements the team has made in his absence, will give the Red Wings and expert coach Mike Babcock enough material to use against the Pens, or perhaps even the Bruins team Detroit beat Wednesday night.
Bet against them at your own peril.