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Pavel Datsyuk Expected To Return As Red Wings Attempt To Clinch Division

The Red Wings will be close to fielding a full lineup today against Minnesota as the team expects the return of forward Pavel Datsyuk from a lower-body injury.

Datsyuk has missed the last seven games after he was hit by Columbus' Rick Nash on March 17. It's certainly a welcome sight: Fox Sports Detroit showed a graphic during yesterday's game that revealed Detroit is just barely above a .500 record when Datsyuk is out of the lineup. Detroit struggled recently without him, culminating in a 10-3 loss against St. Louis on Thursday.

The Red Wings picked up a big win on Saturday however, erasing an early 3-0 deficit before overcoming the Nashville Predators in overtime. A Predators win would have pulled them within two points of Detroit for the Central Division lead and a regulation loss would have eliminated them from the race altogether. Because Detroit won in overtime, Nashville is not technically out of the division race but has just three games to make up five points. If the Red Wings win today they would clinch the division outright.

The Red Wings are also fighting with San Jose for the No. 2 seed in the West. Detroit was hanging onto the spot by a hair but was overtaken this week during their recent slump. San Jose has 101 points to Detroit's 100 and both teams have four games left.

Minnesota on the other hand will have nothing to gain today other than self-confidence. The Wild were officially eliminated from the playoff hunt after losing on Saturday to Steve Yzerman's Tampa Bay Lightning.

Minnesota Injuries

OUT— G Josh Harding, ACL surgery; F John Madden, lower-body; Martin Havlat, undisclosed; Nick Schultz, concussion

Detroit Injuries

OUT—G Chris Osgood, groin

PROBABLE—F Pavel Datsyuk, lower-body; F Mike Modano, groin;

Niklas Kronwall missed yesterday's game in Nashville and his status for today is unknown. 

Players to Watch

Pavel Datsyuk (if he plays that is), Red Wings: Datsyuk in, Red Wings win. It's as simple as that for Detroit, which has struggled on both sides of the red line when he's not playing. 

Mikko Koivu, Wild: With the team out of the playoffs and sitting so many guys due to injury it's hard to pinpoint one player to watch, but Koivu was picking up a few points at the end of March before going scoreless in his last three.