The Detroit Red Wings have lost their past three games, but fans hoping for a glimmer of hope in the form of star center Pavel Datsyuk will have to wait a while longer.
Late last season, Datsyuk ruptured tendons in his right ankle when blocking a shot and had surgery to repair the injury in June. But since the injury, Datsyuk has been sidelined and it appears the timetable for his return, initially set for mid-November, is on track.
Red Wings GM Ken Holland told MLive.com’s Ansar Khan that Datsyuk is set to skate by himself this week and could be practicing by next week.
"He's working out hard on his own,” Holland told Khan. “I think he's on schedule, whatever that means. There's been no setbacks. Obviously, when he trusts his ankle and feels good about his ankle, he'll then join us for practice. Then it's about practicing every day and getting his timing, his conditioning and all those things ramped up. I still think – I'm guessing – he's probably 3-4 weeks away, maybe two. I don't really know.”
Missing Datsyuk for another 2-4 weeks is what the Red Wings likely expected, but they could desperately use his return to the lineup with how the offense has played over the past three games. Over their past three outings, Detroit has scored five goals and managed just 23.7 shots per game. By comparison, the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets have mustered 29 per game in their past three outings.
In 2014-15, Datsyuk was the second-highest scorer on the Red Wings with 26 goals and 65 points in 63 games. His ability to center the first- or second-line in Detroit would give the Red Wings another look down the middle, allowing veteran pivot Brad Richards to slot into a third-line role, if necessary. Datsyuk’s return also gives the Red Wings another weapon on their power play, as Datsyuk was key to the top unit last season.
Luckily for the Red Wings, the Atlantic Division is short on top-end teams, with only Montreal and Tampa Bay as the two powerhouses. If Detroit can stay afloat near the top of the division until Datsyuk’s return, they’ll be in great shape to chase a post-season spot for the 25th consecutive season.