DETROIT — Pavel Datsyuk might not have all the magic he normally has, but he can make a difference in a game.
Datsyuk returned to the lineup Friday for the first time since Feb. 27, right before the Olympic break.
Datsyuk started the game centering Daniel Alfredsson and Justin Abdelkader but moved to the top line between Johan Franzen and Gustav Nyquist later in the game.
"I thought he looked like he’s a talented guy," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "I thought his fitness showed in the third period for sure and that’s not a surprise. I don’t know if it’s his fitness or just he hasn’t played in so long but he’ll probably feel better (Saturday)."
That doesn’t mean Datsyuk will play Saturday in Montreal in the back-to-back.
Babcock said he planned to talk to both Datsyuk and Daniel Alfredsson after the morning skate to see if they can go.
Alfredsson missed the last game and a few practices with a recurring back issue, but scored the game-winning goal and assisted on another in Friday’s 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres.
"I felt OK," Alfredsson said. "Obviously missing a few days, it felt great to be back on the ice and skating (Friday) morning and obviously playing again felt good."
Datsyuk did not show up in the scoring but he had 23 shifts for 17:45 and finished plus-1.
He had one shot on goal, a takeaway, a blocked shot and won 11 of 13 face-offs.
"He provides a lot of things, one of the best two-way centermen in the world and in the D zone he’s always in the right spot and helps the team break out fast," Nyquist said. "In the offensive zone he’s more creative than most guys out there I would say, and really creates chances. I thought he was great (Friday) and I think he’s only going to get better."
Tomas Jurco shares the opinion of most that a less than 100 percent Datsyuk is better than most.
"Pavel looks obviously great," Jurco said. "He can play with a broken leg and he’s still gonna look great. It’s unbelievable how much energy and how much confidence he brings on the ice."
The Wings and their fans were delighted to have Datsyuk back on the ice where he belongs.
But apparently no one was more pleased than Alfredsson’s dad, Hasse.
"It’s great," Alfredsson said. "I know my father’s in town here for a week, he’s extremely happy, he loves Pavel for the way he plays both ends of the ice and smart, so it made one Swede happy (Friday)."