PITTSBURGH (AP) – Pavel Datsyuk made the sign of the cross as he smoothly skated along the boards Wednesday.

“We make plans. God makes decisions,” Datsyuk said.

The Detroit Red Wings would certainly welcome some divine intervention if it helped them get Datsyuk back on the ice for Game 4 in the Stanley Cup finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Datsyuk, who has missed five games with a foot injury, is a finalist for NHL MVP and the award that honors the league’s best defensive forward.

“He’s one of the best players in the world,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “Obviously, we’d like to have him.”

Datsyuk practiced with the defending champions a day after a loss to Pittsburgh cut their lead to 2-1 in the series.

Datsyuk insisted he was healthy, but wasn’t ready to commit to playing for sure.

“We make a decision tomorrow morning,” he said Wednesday.

Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar said Datsyuk is a great player, who helps Detroit at both ends of the ice.

“I’m sure it’s going to give him a boost of energy, and he’s going to help them,” Gonchar said.

Babcock said Kris Draper will play in Game 4, but didn’t know who he would scratch to put the four-time Cup winning forward in the lineup.

Draper had been cleared to play after being sidelined by a sore groin, but Babcock was reluctant to make changes after Detroit beat the reigning runner-up Penguins in the first two games of the series.

The Red Wings will count on Draper – and hope to have Datsyuk back – to help their weakness of killing penalties. They gave up two power-play goals in a two-goal setback against Pittsburgh on Tuesday night.

Datsyuk, a center, sounded as if he’s willing to fit in anywhere to assist.

“Wing, center, defenseman, I want to play so bad,” he said. “I don’t want to watch this game again.”

How has he coped with watching?

“I take in lots of beer,” the Russian said.

Datsyuk hasn’t played since May 19, when his foot stooped a puck against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals.

“I blocked shot, this is all,” he said. “But I’m so happy I did my job.”

The Red Wings went on to sweep Chicago and won the first two games of the Cup finals against Pittsburgh without one of their best players.

“We’ve played five games in eight days without Pav, and to me, that’s long enough,” goaltender Chris Osgood said. “We’ve made it this far, but we don’t want to take anymore chances.”

Datsyuk’s chances of playing improved when he skated hard, made crisp stops and made the puck dance on both sides of his stick during practice the day before Game 4.

“He looked good,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “He was zipping around.”

The 30-year-old Datsyuk was also encouraged.

“I feel again 18 years young,” he said. “I have lots of fun, exciting wearing the skates.

“I feel more comfortable.”

Even if he’s not 100-percent healthy, the Red Wings hope he’s back to help them take a 3-1 lead in the series.

“At 50 percent, he’s got more skill than a lot of guys in the league,” teammate Brad Stuart said.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.