Playoff outlook brightens for Red Wings

The Wings are primed to make the NHL playoffs for a 23rd consecutive season.

Rick Osentoski/Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

With the news that Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk could return to action as early as Wednesday, Detroit’s uneven season appears to be heading upward.

Thanks in part to the epic swoon of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Wings are primed to make the NHL playoffs for a 23rd consecutive season — especially if Datsyuk is a healthy contributor.

Only weeks ago, the Wings’ playoff chances were hanging by a thread as the injuries piled up and a young, makeshift lineup struggled to find consistency.

Wings could get Datsyuk back

But the youngsters have gained confidence, and several of them look like they’re in the NHL to stay.

Led by the highly skilled Gustav Nyquist, these youthful band of Red Wings have kept the playoff hopes alive. And now that some of the Wings’ injured veterans are getting healthy, they would be a formidable playoff foe.

If Datsyuk’s left knee holds up, there won’t be a team in the Eastern Conference thrilled about facing the Wings.

Think about it: a motivated Datsyuk; an emerging star in Nyquist; skillful, young guns in Tomas Tartar and Tomas Jurco; a big-bodied and defensively sound Riley Sheahan; an agitating Luke Glendening; a healthy Danny Dekeyser — they all give the Wings a nucleus that could propel them a long way come playoff time.

And that’s not the best of it.

Throw in a proven playoff performer in Johan Franzen and perhaps the return of a pain-free, rejuvenated Henrik Zetterberg and things are finally beginning to fall Detroit’s way.

Yes, there’s still those defensive deficiencies, which the Wings will have to deal with during the offseason. And goalie Jimmy Howard needs to be more consistent.

Yet, the Wings have weathered what could have been their bleakest season in decades and are still very much alive.

Something tells me that this improbable season is far from being over.