DETROIT — Pavel Datsyuk returns to the ice tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Datsyuk, who missed the last four games and six of the previous eight because of a groin injury, will play on a line with Darren Helm and Stephen Weiss.
"I thought initially it took him a bit to get back and then he was on fire and got hurt again," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "The big thing for Pav is as you get a little older in your career your physical fitness and the amount of care you take in keeping your body healthy is so important.
"He’s a high-end player for us. I haven’t put him with Z (Henrik Zetterberg) on purpose just because…if he gets going maybe I’ll do that but right now leave him where he is and play him on a separate power play. I don’t think you can ever go wrong with having Datsyuk in your lineup."
The odd man out will be Joakim Andersson, a healthy scratch for the second time this season.
The top line remains the same with Zetterberg centering Gustav Nyquist and Justin Abdelkader.
Then Riley Sheahan centers Tomas Tatar and Johan Franzen.
With Andersson out, the fourth line changes to Luke Glendening centering Drew Miller and Tomas Jurco.
SHEAHAN HEATING UP
Riley Sheahan has shown in the last week that he’s more than just an effective defensive-minded forward.
Sheahan has three goals and two assists in his last five games.
"I think the biggest thing I’m just trying to get the puck to the net a little more," Sheahan said. "I’ve got a little more confidence when the puck’s on my stick. I think that’s the biggest thing and playing with some good players, we’ve had kind of a streak going here."
Sheahan said it was more of a mental adjustment he made that led to a difference in his play.
"I think earlier in the year I was playing fine, but I wasn’t really taking chances when I had the puck," Sheahan said. "I was just a little conservative. Now I have a little more confidence when the puck is on my stick. I’m just going to just keep trying to throw it to the net and hopefully good things happen."
Sheahan’s line mate, Tatar, has also heated up lately, with eight goals and four assists in his last 12 games.
Tatar said with Sheahan’s size, 6-foot-3, 222 pounds, he can create space.
"He’s a great center, plays really good in the D zone, he plays the puck well for us wingers so we’ve been getting lots of pucks with speed," Tatar said. "He’s using his big body in the O zone to protect the puck. I think right now he’s playing really, really good. He’s taking the body for us and tries to open up space on the ice for me, Abby (Abdelkader) or Mule (Franzen)."
The other factor is Sheahan has chemistry with his line mates.
"I think we know right now where we’re on the ice and we can see each other blindly and that’s just a good feeling to have someone like that on the ice," Tatar said.
When Sheahan is scoring, it also takes a little pressure off of other players.
"I think he’s been playing great," Nyquist said of Sheahan. "Doing a lot of scoring for us, the whole line with Tats sticking together most of the time. They’re a really good combination, got a lot of chemistry. Seems like forever they’ve been on that line. Seems to be going good. They’re very important for this team. Coming off last year I thought that whole line did a great job. Sheahan stepped in right away and showed he can be real productive in this league. Plays real well offensively and defensively. Great in face-off circle as well. Brings a lot to this team."