There is no denying that Pavel Datsyuk is among the most electrifying players in the world.
Unfortunately for the Detroit Red Wings, he’s had to deal with more than his share of injuries throughout his NHL career.
The Red Wings will be without Datsyuk for a second straight game – and possibly much longer – Sunday night when they host the red-hot Tampa Bay Lightning.
Playing without Datsyuk has become almost commonplace for Detroit, which is 7-2-1 in the last 10 games the star forward has missed. That stretch includes the first five games this season while Datsyuk recovered from a separated shoulder.
He returned Oct. 21 and accumulated five goals and 10 points in eight games before sitting out Friday’s 4-2 win over New Jersey after injuring his groin in pregame warm-ups.
Datsyuk has missed 43 games over the last two seasons and coach Mike Babcock seems resigned to another long-term absence.
"I don’t know when Pavel’s coming back, if he’s coming back," Babcock told the team’s official website. "I don’t know what’s going on there. I just try to have the best lineup I can."
With Datsyuk sidelined, Henrik Zetterberg will be asked to carry an even greater offensive burden. He leads the team with 12 assists and 16 points, recording two goals and five assists during a four-game home point streak.
Friday’s victory snapped a three-game skid for the Red Wings (7-3-4), who received two goals from defensemen in the same game for the first time this season and won their fourth straight at Joe Louis Arena. Detroit also scored twice on the power play, making it 4 for 9 with the man advantage in the last two games after a 3-for-35 stretch.
"The power play’s been good this last while here," Babcock said. "You’re not always going to score but you want to do good things on it, build momentum."
The Red Wings haven’t won five in a row at home since an NHL-record 23-game streak in 2011-12.
Extending their streak won’t be easy against Tampa Bay (10-3-1), which scored four first-period goals en route to its fifth straight win, 7-4 over Columbus on Saturday. Tyler Johnson scored twice and Ryan Callahan added a goal and two assists to help the Lightning keep pace with Pittsburgh and Montreal for the Eastern Conference lead.
"They played last night and we came out strong," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "We built it up to 4-0. That’s what you have to do to win a hockey game, and that’s what we did."
Only the Penguins have been better offensively than Tampa Bay, which is averaging 3.86 goals this season after reaching seven for the second time during the win streak.
Johnson, the surprise team leader with 17 points, has recorded at least one in each of his six road games.
Tampa Bay is likely to have Ben Bishop in net as its seeks its first six-game win streak since Jan. 18-Feb. 1, 2011. Bishop has posted a 2.61 goals-against average during a five-start win streak overall, and is 4-1-0 with a 1.56 GAA versus Detroit.
The Lightning won the first four meetings last season before the Red Wings claimed a 3-2 home victory March 30.
Jimmy Howard, who allowed two goals for the fifth consecutive start Friday, is 3-1-1 with a 1.98 GAA against Tampa Bay.