Datsyuk missed 19 games with a broken hand.
He snapped an uncharacteristic scoreless drought of 143:26 by the Wings when he scored early in the second period to give Detroit a 1-0 lead.
Detroit was 11-7-2 (including the 5-4 victory over Vancouver Dec. 22 the night he injured his hand in the first period) and have managed to maintain second place in the conference without him, although the Canucks have increased their lead over the Red Wings in the standings during that time.
I don't think anybody is more happy to see the perennial Selke Trophy winner back than Jimmy Howard.
In the 20 games without him, the Red Wings have had only four games in which they did not allow three or more goals.
When asked if Datsyuk makes a big difference, Howard responded, "Yes he does," laughing at the question.
"He takes a lot of pressure off the guys in front, and he creates a of of space for guys out there too."
In a phone interview with TSN, he emphatically stated, "It's great to have Pavel back."
"We know how good he is offensively and defensively, so it gives our team a boost to have a player like him back," Nicklas Lidstrom said. "It didn’t look like he missed 19 games."
"He’s so good offensively and defensively, working hard, getting the puck back. Just his awareness on the ice. When you haven’t played for almost two months, you’re not in game shape, but it didn’t look like he missed a beat," Lidstrom added.
"He makes things happen with the puck, and when the other team has it he never lets up. He will work so hard to get it back and that's why he leads the league in takeaways every year."
Always the perfectionist who rarely makes mistakes on the ice, Pavel did not agree with Lidstom, saying there were times in the game that he would "like to start a fight with myself."
Even though he was the best player on the ice, he felt that he "still need more games for sure, and maybe more workout off-ice, too."
He played on a line with Dan Cleary (who also recently returned from injury) and Jiri Hudler. They were the best line in the game and made TSN Highlight of the Night with a pretty passing play started off along the boards with a pass through his legs from Hudler to Datsyuk who one-timed a pass to Jonathan Ericsson, who in turn passed it back to Hudler who ripped it into the net.
Datsyuk's mind did not seem slow on that one, or for any, of the game to us mere mortal observers, but as I said, he is a perfectionist and knows he will do even better as his timing, strength and conditioning returns.
He didn't take any faceoffs and his hand is not yet fully healed and I am sure the Red Wings and their fans are hoping Detroit didn't rush him into the lineup because of a two-game skid in which they did not score a goal.
"My line did a good job, gave me a good pass," Datsyuk said. "Believe me, it’s tough. Teammates helped me a lot. A little bit pain, but I needed to fight through the pain."
With Pavel back, the Wings are a much better team and poised to make a run at another Presidents' Trophy.