Datsyuk hopes to return this weekend

Updated: April 18, 2006, 9:41 PM ET
Associated Press

DETROIT -- Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk hopes to be on the ice when the playoffs start this weekend, despite not playing since injuring his left thigh two weeks ago.

"With fingers, I hope," Datsyuk said Monday, crossing the index and middle fingers on his right hand as he spoke following a morning skate before the Red Wings' scheduled night game against Dallas. It was the first time the Russian star had skated since the injury.

Datsyuk was hurt April 3 during a shootout win at Calgary, but didn't realize he was injured after being checked by Andrew Ference.

"It was not a big hit," Datsyuk said. "I felt it on the plane. It was swollen."

The next day, the Red Wings said Datsyuk would not play for at least a week to 10 days because of a lower-body injury. Datsyuk said the injury, above his left knee, has improved each day while he's been out.

Datsyuk had a team-high 87 points when he was sidelined two weeks ago and still leads the NHL's top team in scoring. He was tied for 15th in the league in points through Sunday's game on 28 goals and 59 assists.

He signed a two-year contract worth $3.9 million per year in late September, shortly before the season started, after signing a contract earlier in the month with Avangard Omsk of the Russian SuperLeague. That contract was matched by Moscow Dynamo, another SuperLeague team with which Datsyuk played during the NHL lockout last season.

The dazzling player with great hands and moves was a standout during his previous two regular NHL seasons -- with 119 points combined -- and lackluster in the playoffs. He didn't score a goal and had six assists combined in the 2003 and 2004 Stanley Cup playoffs when the Red Wings exited the postseason early. As a rookie in the 2001-02 season, he had 35 points.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press