The Detroit Red Wings managed to earn a 3-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday night, even without their leading scorer in the lineup. After suffering a concussion from an elbow to the head in a 4-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Saturday, Datsyuk sat out against the Sabres and will miss Wednesday’s game against the Boston Bruins and Friday’s contest against the New York Islanders. The loss of Datsyuk, who leads the team with 12 goals and trails only captain Henrik Zetterberg in points, is a significant blow but one that will afford a handful of forwards the opportunity to step up.
One player who could do more offensively is Daniel Alfredsson, who returned to action against the Sabres and scored an empty-net goal to seal the win. He has 16 points in 20 games but has only scored four goals. With Todd Bertuzzi also sidelined, the Red Wings will need stronger play from wingers Dan Cleary and Mikael Samuelsson. Both veteran players have been disappointing this season, and they have a chance to redeem themselves by finding the back of the net while Datsyuk is out. In only 11 games, Darren Helm has five goals and 12 points, marking the best start of his career. If he continues to see time as a second line center, he could be one of the players to step up as the team tries to gain ground in the Atlantic Division. Justin Abdelkader and Stephen Weiss have been far too quiet offensively this season, and if there was ever a time for those two players to step up it is now.
After an awful start to the season, Johan Franzen has started to find his touch in November and must continue to produce while Datsyuk is out. He has four goals and eight points in the last eight games, and he’ll be in line to add to that total if he sees top line time alongside Zetterberg and Gustav Nyquist. Losing a player like Datsyuk is tough, but the Red Wings have the depth to survive his injury if they can get the secondary scoring they have lacked so far this season. Heading into the game against the Bruins, Detroit is 20th in the league in goals per game and that has to change if they hope to see their postseason appearance streak continue.