DETROIT — When Red Wings Coach Mike Babcock met with the assembled press after Friday’s morning skate, he was a bit hesitant when asked if Pavel Datsyuk was in tonight’s lineup against the Chicago Blackhawks.
"I don’t know. What did he tell you guys?" Babcock asked.
Once he was informed that Datsyuk told reporters that he was playing, Babcock replied, "He said he’s playing. Pav’s in the lineup."
Datsyuk has missed Detroit’s last two games with a strained groin and will play on a line with Justin Abdelkader and Tomas Jurco.
"I don’t know," was Babcock’s response to the question about what he can expect from Datsyuk. "He was playing great when he left and anytime you get leg injuries or groin injuries, to me, it’s not like a shoulder if your legs are going and you come back.
"So we’ll see what happens here tonight. Abby (Abdelkader) and he seem to play real well together. We put Jurcs (Jurco) there to give them more speed. Let’s see what happens."
After missing the Wings’ first five games of the season with a shoulder separation, Datsyuk provided a spark to the Wings inconsistent offense upon his return, registering 10 points in eight games, including five goals.
Babcock surprised some with his decision to put a struggling Jurco on Datsyuk’s line, but Babcock’s reasoning was pretty simple.
"Pav wasn’t playing. I like my other lines," he said "Put Pav in didn’t want to screw up my other lines, so I’m going that way."
It also gives Jurco a terrific opportunity to bust out of his season-long slump by playing with one of the world’s most talented players.
Jurco hasn’t scored a goal this season and has just two points in 12 games, which led to him being benched for the Wings’ last three games.
"He’s a big, strong, young kid who can really skate," Babcock said of Jurco. "He’s real good with the puck and we expect him to just go out there with confidence and play hard.
"I thought he was playing well in his last two games. We sat him out. He’s had three games to sit around and watch and decide how bad he wants to play and understand that it’s not a given.
"You have to earn the right to play. He’s getting an opportunity to play with Abby and Pav that are real good players and we need him to be good."
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