DETROIT — If things go well, and certainly most of the season they have not, Pavel Datsyuk could return to the Red Wings lineup this week.
Datsyuk participated in his first full practice with the team Tuesday. He’s been out of action since Feb. 27 due to a knee injury.
"I’m happy to be back with the team," Datsyuk said. "I need a little more time to pick up the pace, pick up everything."
Datsyuk did not rule out playing Wednesday against the Boston Bruins.
"Game-time decision," Datsyuk said. "We’ll see (Wednesday) how I feel."
Coach Mike Babcock said someone told him Datsyuk might play Friday against Buffalo.
"I thought it was up to him," Babcock said. "I haven’t been involved in those things all year. I spend my time worrying about the players that are playing, so if I hear he’s in (Wednesday), I’ll start worrying about him then."
Gustav Nyquist, who has seen Datsyuk skate, thought he looked pretty good.
"To me, he always looks great," Nyquist said. "But I don’t think he feels 100 percent shape-wise or anything like that. But he’s so good out there, he’s always good, I think, when he’s on the ice. I’m sure he wants to see how it feels with a couple full skates, especially conditioning-wise when you’ve been out for a while, it’s different to be on the bike here and then do some skates without the team. It’s going to take some practice to get in game shape again."
Datsyuk admitted his conditioning is not where he’d like it to be.
"You can see, barely move," Datsyuk said. "I need more time for this one. But one game, short shifts will help a lot."
There’s no question that even at less than 100 percent, Datsyuk could help the Wings down the final stretch.
"Teams key on him," Justin Abdelkader said. "They key on him on the power play and 5-on-5. He’s usually going to take the best matchup from the (other team’s) defensemen. He’s a big part of this team. It’ll be huge if he can come back. If he doesn’t, we still have to plug away with the group that we have."
Said Nyquist: "He’s one of the best players in the world so I think he’s going to mean a lot for this team. Just a really good centerman, both ends of the ice, obviously. I think he’s going to be able to help us out in all areas on the ice and also with his leadership."
Datsyuk is looking forward to returning but he doesn’t want to upset the good things that the young Wings are doing.
"Make sure I help team," Datsyuk said. "That’s more important. We’re in race to make playoffs. That’s more important, they’re playing well."