Red Wings counting on Datsyuk to play in Game 5

Publish date:

Well, maybe Pavel Datsyuk is finally ready to make his debut in the 2009 Stanley Cup finals.

Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said "he'll play," when asked Friday if he expected Datsyuk to be in Game 5 on Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The MVP finalist hasn't played since May 19, when he blocked a shot with his foot against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference finals.

Datsyuk was on the Mellon Arena ice a lot on Thursday, just not when the Red Wings needed him. He went through the morning skate, extended his workout for a while on his own and looked as if he was getting ready to play during pregame warmups.

Then, he was a slightly surprising scratch before Pittsburgh's series-evening 4-2 victory against the defending champions.

"We were hoping Pav was going to be in, but we weren't planning," Babcock said. "Now we're hoping Pav's going to be in and we're planning that he's going to be in.

"But he's still got to be in."

Datsyuk could give Detroit a much-needed boost in all phases of the game, but it's difficult to imagine him being sharp after not playing for two-plus weeks.

"How does he do when he gets out there?" Babcock asked. "He missed a chunk of time. Is he capable of those situations? Is he playing on the wing or is he playing in the middle?

"We'll see. I don't know the answer, and I'm being honest."

Jordan Staal first made his mark in the NHL as a short-handed goal specialist.

But until Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals, he was coming up short for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Or, in his case, not coming up with short-handed goals.

He surprisingly made the Penguins' roster as an 18-year-old rookie in 2006, then the first-round pick did something even more unexpected: Staal began scoring short-handed goals in bunches.

Staal became the youngest player in NHL history to score two short-handed goals in a game, against Columbus on Oct. 21, 2006, and the first player since 1982 to score his first three NHL goals short-handed. He finished the season with an NHL rookie record seven short-handed scores among his 29 goals.

Staal had only one short-handed goal in two seasons, on Jan. 10 at Colorado, until his goal in the second period Thursday gave the Penguins a 2-all tie and began their comeback during a 4-2 victory over Detroit.

"You can't beat one of those, I guess," Staal said Friday of only his third goal in 21 playoff games. "It's definitely something special. They all count, but it's definitely nice to get one."

The spectacular play, beating defenseman Brian Rafalski to the front of the net and getting the puck past Chris Osgood, might prove to be pivotal if Pittsburgh ends up hoisting the Cup.

Staal's short-handed goal was the first by Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup finals since Bob Errey scored in Game 2 against Chicago in 1992. It was the first against Detroit in the 41 playoff games, dating to the 2007 Western Conference finals.

he first media outlet to foresee the Penguins' comeback against the Red Wings was the Pittsburgh City Paper, a weekly tabloid entertainment-feature newspaper that is distributed for free.

The entire front page of this week's edition, printed before the Penguins won Games 3 and 4 on home ice, is the headline: "Pens Defeat Red Wings."

There's also an asterisk that denotes: "Well, Not Necessarily, But You Can't Blame Us for Trying."

The headline teases a feature story intended to get brand new hockey watchers up to speed and capable of talking the sport with longtime fans. The paper advises them to casually drop the names of obscure recent Penguins players such as Konstantin Koltsov into conversations and avoid any references to halftime during a game.

Detroit D Brad Stuart scored for the third time in the playoffs on Thursday, surpassing the two goals he had in 67 games during the regular season. He has three goals in 10 playoff games against Pittsburgh. ... Staal's assist on Evgeni Malkin's goal in Game 4 was his first point in 10 playoff games against Detroit. ... Detroit outshot Pittsburgh 39-31 and lost, following a trend. The team with more shots in the Stanley Cup finals has lost each of the first four games. Entering the series, teams with the shots edge won 56.4 percent of the games this postseason.


AP Sports Alan Robinson in Pittsburgh contributed to this report.