The Detroit Red Wings superstar player, Pavel Datsyuk, will miss at least two weeks after minor knee surgery. He had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee to remove fragments.
The team currently leads the league with 84 points, two ahead of Vancouver in the Western Conference race.
They lead the Central Division by five points over St Louis, and maintaining their position in the standings is important.
They have proven how difficult they are to play at home with their ongoing league-record 23-game home winning streak.
The injury will likely leave Datsyuk out of the Hart Trophy race.
He has spent most of the season in the top 10 in points but will surely drop.
It will be difficult for the team to replace his outstanding play. In their first game without him, they had too many turnovers and sloppy play, which lead to a loss to Chicago.
With seven games over this two-week stretch, the team will need players to step up and fill the void that Datsyuk has left.
The team proved that they are capable of rising up, as they played extremely well when Joey MacDonald stepped up during Jimmy Howard's absence.
Here are candidates that can rise to the occasion.
Henrik Zetterberg has been off this season and, to be honest, has slid downhill the past couple of seasons.
After having four straight years with 30 or more goals—including a career high of 43—he has dropped to 23 and 24 the past two years.
Now his game is so much more than just scoring goals.
While his goals dropped, his assists have gone up, so his overall points total has been good. Plus few players are as diligent on both ends of the ice as he is.
This year, he only has 13 goals and 33 assists, which has him on pace for his worst season since 2005-06.
On the plus side, he has shown signs of finding his form lately. Prior to the Chicago matchup, he had a four-game stretch where he had three goals and three assists.
If he can maintain that pace, or at least something close to it, it would greatly help the team.
As one of the team leaders, he will be looked upon to help the team through this tough stretch.
Cleary is another player that is having an off-season.
After posting a career best 26 goals last season, he has fallen off to 11 goals so far this year.
He has been bothered by nagging injuries throughout the season and has tried to play through them.
He had finally started to show some life with five points in four games. However, he ended up missing five games.
He returned against Chicago and really showed some rust. Hopefully he gets up to speed very quickly and returns to his scoring ways from last year.
Miller is not a player who really needs to step up, as his performance this season has already been very good.
What he needs to do is take this opportunity to really shine and take on a scoring role with the team.
He is 16th on the team in time-on-ice average, at just over 12 minutes a game. Despite this low number, he is tied for sixth on the team in goals with 12.
If he can turn Datsyuk's absence into more ice time for himself, then his numbers should really explode.
Ideally, he is able to show enough to secure a spot on one of the top two lines—even after Datsyuk returns.
Miller is a player who hustles and plays hard, but he can score too and needs to be given the chance to show just how much he can do.
Todd Bertuzzi’s days of being a high goal scorer are long gone—luckily that is not his usual role on the team.
He has settled into being a 15 to 20 goal scorer, while providing tough, hard-nosed play.
Bertuzzi has signed a two-year extension with the team, and can now focus on helping them through Datsyuk’s absence.
He has become a very streaky player and may end up with around 18 goals, but they tend to happen in bunches.
Bertuzzi will have a couple of multi-goal games, perhaps a streak of maybe three in five games, but then will go dormant for long stretches.
The team needs him to go on one of his goal streaks over these next two weeks.
After Datsyuk returns, he can return to his normal role player status.
A well timed goal streak would greatly help.
Darren Helm entered the season as a player that many people expected to have a breakout year.
It has not happened yet.
After back-to-back years with goals in the double-digits, he is off that pace this season.
Helm is one of the quickest players in the league and is a true hustle player.
However, he has the potential to be so much more.
He needs to learn to finish his scoring chances, and with Datsyuk out, it would be the perfect time to take his game to that next level.
Tomas Holmstrom has really disappeared from the score sheets this year.
After being an amazingly balanced player over the past eight seasons—in which he averaged 21 goals and 21 assists—he has dropped to eight goals and 10 assists this season.
His play has resulted in much less ice time as well.
He is averaging roughly four minutes less a game this year, compared to his last five seasons. As much as is it hard to admit, the beloved Homer is 39-years-old and in the last season of his contract. With so many young players in the minors, is this his last season with the team?
A strong stretch now with Datsyuk out would greatly help his chances of returning, not to mention help him regain some confidence entering the playoffs—where historically he has shined.
When a player of Datsyuk’s caliber goes down, it takes more than one player to make up for it.
While Zetterberg has the ability to fill the void on his own, the rest of the players will need others to step up as well.
Between the home winning streak, playoff seedings and gaining home ice for the playoffs at stake, every game is important.
The team will need to continue their great play, even with Datsyuk on the sidelines.
PJ Sapienza is a featured columnist for the Detroit Red Wings and a writer of many other sports. He is also taking part in a Polar Plunge for Special Olympics and would greatly appreciate your support. You can also follow him on Twitter.