All Star Pavel Datsyuk’s return to the lineup this week is a big boost for Detroit Red Wings as they visit the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.
Datsyuk had a goal and an assist in his first game back Tuesday before Florida rallied to beat Detroit in a shootout.
“Pavel gives us confidence and is a real good player, but the rest of us have to play better than we did,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock told the Detroit News. “If we’re counting on Pavel (to cure everything), that’s not how it works."
The Red Wings coughed up a two-goal lead in the third period to drop a 3-2 decision and lose for the second straight game to Florida, which has more points than only two teams in the league. The Lightning scored the first three goals Tuesday at Washington before losing 6-5 in a shootout and are 1-2-2 over the last five. The new Atlantic Division rivals also meet in Detroit on Sunday.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, NHL Network, FSN Detroit, SunSports (Tampa Bay)
ABOUT THE RED WINGS (15-9-8): Datsyuk is back after missing seven games with a concussion, but captain and leading scorer Henrik Zetterberg was placed on long-term injured reserve as he recovers from a herniated disc. Johan Franzen could move back to the middle with center Stephen Weiss likely out with a groin injury. Jonas Gustavsson (8-1-1, .930 save percentage) gets another start in net and Petr Mrazek was recalled to be his backup after Jimmy Howard tweaked his knee at Florida.
ABOUT THE LIGHTNING (17-10-3): With six points in the last six games and a plus-4, rookie center Tyler Johnson continues to produce in an expanded role since All Star Steven Stamkos went down with a broken tibia last month. Captain Martin St. Louis, Johnson’s new linemate, recorded six points in the last three outings. The Lightning, who have been without their top defenseman Victor Hedman due to a lower-body injury the last two games, allowed five goals or more in four of the last 11 games.
1. Detroit D Niklas Kronwall was tied for sixth among defensemen with 21 points through Tuesday’s games.
2. Tampa Bay C Nate Thompson has scored in each of the last two games after recording one goal in the first 28 contests.
3. The Red Wings had beaten Tampa Bay six straight times before their 3-2 overtime loss on Nov. 9 at Detroit.