DETROIT — The Red Wings are looking to get a little magic back Friday night.
Pavel Datsyuk, the "Magic Man," returns to the lineup after missing the last 16 games because of a knee injury.
"It’s been long time no play," Datsyuk said. "I forget I’m hockey player. Exciting to come back."
Wings coach Mike Babcock said he expects Datsyuk to start out at wing. During Thursday’s practice, he was on a line with Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader.
"He looked awesome," Helm said. "Like he’s got lots of energy, pretty excited. I forgot how good he was with the puck, trying to get it away from him, I really didn’t have an opportunity to steal the puck from him too much. It looks like he’s having fun out there and he’s going to be a great addition back in this lineup.
"He’s a guy that we need. He slows the game down. Plays with so much poise, skill, backs the other team’s D off a lot. He’s going to be a good help on the power play as well."
Datsyuk said he feels much better than when he played in the Olympics.
"Knee’s not really bothered me but not too much like before when it was really bad," Datsyuk said.
Like Wings fans, Babcock has high expectations of his star center.
"I expect him to be one of the best players in the world," Babcock said. "(He) has an ability to change the game. In saying that, we can’t stand around watching him play. We’ve been doing it without him and we’ve got to continue to make sure we’re doing our part. We’ve got to guard against saying, ‘Oh, Pav’s gonna look after it.’ He isn’t gonna look after it, we gotta look after it as a group."
Babcock made that clear to his team.
"Everyone has to keep doing what they’ve been doing and keep doing their job out there," Gustav Nyquist said. "Pav is going to help but he can’t do it just all by himself, it’s got to be a team effort out there so everyone’s got to chip in. It’s gonna be nice to have him back."
Babcock said Datsyuk’s ice time would be determined by how he looks during the game.
"He knows how to play, so he knows how to play with and without the puck," Babcock said. "When he gets his hands on it, he’s gonna be good with it. Without it, he knows how to play. I’m not sure how much pace he’ll have, I don’t know that for sure. We didn’t do a lot of pace stuff today, just because the other guys, just the amount of games we’re playing. I saw him out there battling after practice. If it appears he’s ready and feels confident, then I’m sure he is."
Although he’s missed a lot of time, now that he’s returning, Datsyuk expects to keep playing.
"Long time don’t play and now I just play one game and I see," Datsyuk said. "I hope I play back to back and I play all games that are left."
The Wings have six games remaining in the regular season.
ALFREDSSON HAVING BACK TROUBLE
Daniel Alfredsson missed practice again Thursday.
"We gave him another day," Babcock said. "He’s had the same thing, the back stuff, so he’s getting it worked out. He could be a go (Friday) though."
DON’T OVERLOOK SABRES
The Wings still need points to keep their 22-season playoff streak alive.
That means they have to play the way they’re capable of playing, regardless of their opponent.
On Wednesday it was the best team in the league, the Boston Bruins.
On Friday, it’s the opposite situation as the cellar-dwelling Buffalo Sabres come to town.
The Bruins have 110 points while the Sabres have 51.
"It’s so tight in this league," Nyquist said. "We beat the best team in the league (Wednesday). Everyone can win on any given night in this league, the teams are so close. They’re going to be a challenge for us. They’re a good team so we gotta be ready."
Babcock said he watched the Sabres play the New Jersey Devils the other night and planned to watch their game against the St. Louis Blues.
"I just thought they skated good, their back end was pretty active," Babcock said. "I liked how they played. Anytime you’re putting on an NHL sweater, you’re an NHL player and you’re going to come out here and play hard and if you don’t respect the opposition, it usually doesn’t turn out very well for you."
HOWARD IN NET
Babcock confirmed that Jimmy Howard would be in goal Friday night.