Morning Skate: Welcome Back, Pavel

He's baaaaaaaaaaaaack.

The captain and leader of the team might still be ailing back in Michigan, but the heart and soul of the Red Wings returns tonight.

After missing 11-straight games, Pavel Datsyuk is back in the Winged Wheel uniform tonight against the Sharks. And thank goodness too. During his time away, the Wings had an atrocious, ugly, disgusting 3-7-1 record. Datsyuk is the straw that stirs the drink that is this Red Wings team. He's going to bring confidence and swagger to a team that severely lack that right now. He's going to forecheck. He's going to backcheck. He's going to pull off some move that makes your jaw drop. Why is he going to do that? Because that's what Pavel Datsyuk does. It's just Pasha being Pasha.

Everyone will have an extra jump in their step in San Jose. The Wings will be up against a team fighting for their playoff lives. Right now, the Sharks are on the outside looking in. Unfamiliar territory for them. They'll be hungry, but at the same time the Wings better be hungry too. Detroit might be in the playoffs, but they're just barely holding onto the 4th seed and home ice in the first round. It's kill or be killed tonight. Only one team is going to skate away with points...it better be the Red Wings.

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Fear The Fin is your SBNation Sharks' blog.

Puck drop is just after 10:30p ET on Fox Sports Detroit for the locals and NBCSN nationally and apparently FSD on Center Ice too for the rest of us.

The Expected Lineup

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Tomas Holmstrom -- Pavel Datsyuk -- Todd Bertuzzi

Valtteri Filppula -- Henrik Zetterberg -- Jiri Hudler

Danny Cleary -- Darren Helm -- Drew Miller

Jan Mursak -- Justin Abdelkader -- Cory Emmerton

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Niklas Kronwall -- Brad Stuart

Kyle Quincey -- Ian White

Brendan Smith -- Doug Janik

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Jimmy Howard (starting)

Jordan Pearce

Game-Time Decision: Johan Franzen (back)

Injuries: Patrick Eaves (concussion), Nicklas Lidstrom (ankle), Jonathan Ericsson (wrist), Jakub Kindl (oblique) and Joey MacDonald (back spasms)

RED WINGS HOW THEY MATCH UP SHARKS
44-24-3 (91 pts; 4th in West) Record 35-25-10 (80 pts; 9th in West)
2.99 (5th in NHL) Goals Per Game 2.63 (13th in NHL)
2.38 (4th) Goals Against Per Game 2.49 (7th)
Still Crap Power Play % 20.8% (4th)
81.4% (20th) Penalty Kill % 78.2% (28th)
Johan Franzen (26 goals) Goal Leader Logan Couture (30 goals)
Datsyuk/Zetterberg (59 points) Points Leader Joe Thornton (67 points)

  • The Red Wings are 50-23-4-1 (W-L-T-OTL) all-time against the San Jose Sharks franchise.
  • Mule is a game-time decision tonight. Homer moved up to the first line in practice and skated with Bert and Pavel. We'll see if that remains if Franzen can't play. I personally wouldn't mind leaving Homer and the 4th line intact and giving Abby a shot on the top line. Odds are it will either be Homer or Cleary though.
  • The Flying Circus will be back together on the power play. Hopefully Pav, Hank and Homer can bring the pathetic excuse of a special teams unit back to relevancy. Sharks suck on the PK. Pav is back. It's now or never for a PP goal.
  • The Sharks are 3-4-3 in their last 10 games and are 2-1-0 against the Wings this season.
  • Antti Niemi is 7-2-1 with a 2.09 GAA, .932 SV% and one shutout in his career against the Wings. Meanwhile, Jimmy Howard is 3-4-1 with a 3.12 GAA and .903 SV% in his career against the Sharks.

Prediction: The Wings are back! Detroit wins 4-2 and, of course, Pavel Datsyuk is your player of the game.

Let's Go Red Wings.

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