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Dmitry Chesnokov

Puck Daddy chats with Pavel Datsyuk about Red Wings' chances, Selke race, Blackhawks, concussions and favorite superhero

Dmitry Chesnokov
Puck Daddy

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If Pavel Datsyuk(notes) interviews are anything, they're unpredictable. Whether it's his dry humor or telling us "Don't touch my dream with your dirty hands" when asked about his fantasy car, the Detroit Red Wings star has always been a fascinating subject.

I spoke with Pavel recently about dozens of different topics, from his health to the Cup race to the Chicago Blackhawks to concussions to the Selke Trophy to his favorite superhero to what he's currently reading.

Here's out chat with Pavel Datsyuk:

Q. I read that when you got injured and the team was ready to go on a trip, you sent a message to Ken Holland that said, ‘I'm sorry. I got sick.'

DATSYUK: Something like that. They were leaving on a trip to play away from home. It was a long trip, as far as I remember. And I just took the opportunity and went to Florida to recover from my injury. I love being with the team, but if you can't perform certain functions there is no reason to travel with the team as a burden.

I know it's been a while since you came back from the hand injury. How are you feeling? Have you fully recovered from the injury?

Not yet. The injury reminds of itself every once in a while. I think it's going to continue for the next two to three weeks when I can still feel it. I spoke to a few guys who had similar type of injuries, and they told me it's still going to take some time to get over it.

It is probably especially difficult for you with the way you use your hands when you play.

The game changed a little bit, of course. The speed of the game is just so fast, so I just try to keep up with everyone.

This is your ninth year in the NHL. Could you compare this team to the championship teams of the past that you played for?

Back when I won my first Cup against the Carolina Hurricanes, there was no salary cap and our team had only stars, if you can say that. I was so lucky to be on that team, and I had the ability to learn from them not only during games, but also at practices. But it's difficult to compare because the game has changed so much, the rules have changed too. It's just difficult to compare these two teams. But I can still remember how many star players we had, that I just wanted to walk around and ask them for autographs.

It's tough in the salary cap era to build a winning team and then to keep it. But it seems that the Red Wings are good every year. Every year they are considered a contender. Do you have the same feeling?

I do have the same feeling. But you have to give all the credit to Ken Holland and the management team. It's because of what they do that we get this chance every year to really compete for the Cup. And it's not just Holland, it's the entire organization and what they do for the team, I am simply in awe of their work.

What psychological trick has Holland ever pulled on you personally?

To be honest it's difficult for me to pick one word to describe it, or one instance of what he did. But this feeling of warmth and love within the team - it's worth so much. It's what is done for the team that every Detroit player treasures so much.

But what exactly is the secret that the Red Wings are amongst the favorites to win the Cup every year?

Well, if I tell you all the secrets, then it won't be Detroit anymore. Someone else will pick them up and use them. There are secrets and they have to stay within the team.

The main reasons are the management and the atmosphere inside the team. And you also have to look at the work ethic. You can see that we have a lot of older players, but their work ethic is just perfect. You should see the way everyone works in practices, the way everyone is taking care of themselves, the shape everyone is in. Even in the past look at guys like Chris Chelios(notes), Igor Larionov, Nicklas Lidstrom(notes) - they are living examples, the role models of what a player should be like. And you want to learn from them.

The NHL trade deadline came and went and Detroit, just like almost every year, didn't make any moves. Did you expect that maybe someone would join the Red Wings?

You can look at the history of the Red Wings around the trade deadline, and we're almost never active. One reason is that we just don't have any room to maneuver under the cap. In my 9 years in the NHL I don't think there was a big move we made on the deadline.

The Canucks were swallowed by the wave of injuries. Does that mean that the Red Wings are now the favorites of the Western Conference?

It's not just Vancouver. The season is long and it is very difficult to go through the season without injuries. And it's tough to be at the top of the standings and keep it that way because every team plays extra hard against you, everyone wants to beat you.

As for us being the favorites? I don't think that's the case. There are a lot of teams that are extremely strong. If you look at the Western Conference standings you will notice that the gap between the top and the twelfth team is, like, 10 points. Maybe a little more. It's always very stressful, because if you lose a few games in a row everything can change.

Do you think Ryan Kesler(notes) will win the Selke Trophy this year? Isn't it your trophy?

It's not my trophy. It's Selke's trophy.

I think there are quite a few players who can win it. Every player has a chance to win it. Kesler is having a great season and I wish him to continue going this way. But that doesn't mean I have given up. I am going to keep trying to prove that I am worth it too.

Is there a team in the West that surprised you this season? Or maybe a team you would like to avoid playing in the playoffs?

I would like to avoid playing the team that could beat us in the playoffs, whatever that team is. Otherwise, we don't really have a team like that. Every team plays against us as if it's their last battle. And by doing that they make us even stronger. So, thanks to them for that.

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What happened to all the Russian players in the NHL this season? Ovechkin wasn't having a good year until recently, Kovalchuk too; Malkin's season wasn't that good even before he got injured; you broke your hand.

Andrei Markov(notes) got injured. Alexander Frolov(notes) did too. It's pretty difficult to pinpoint what it is and what the reason is. Everyone's having different seasons playing for different clubs. I just hope that by the time the playoffs come around all of the guys come back and prove that we're some of the best players in the playoffs.

Talking about injuries, there are just so many injuries in the NHL this year. That's especially true for concussions that have sidelined players like Sidney Crosby(notes), David Perron(notes), Mark Savard. Why do you think this is happening? Is the game different now? Or are players just not respecting each other?

I think there has to be some kind of sports ethics, some kind of respect towards each other. Everyone has to be held accountable for their actions. Even though you're behind a visor, under a helmet, you have to be accountable for your actions. And mutual respect is one of the most important things that has to be present.

Secondly, I think the competition for roster spots is so fierce, and everyone is trying to prove that they are faster, stronger, tougher. You have to take that into account too.

There is also a feeling of excitement during a game when you're going against an opponent - it's either he's going to beat you or the other way around. When you're on the ice you only think about getting the better of your opponent, or he will get the better of you. This excitement is too much for some players who cannot control their emotions. And, unfortunately, this leads to consequences that we have to pay for long after our careers are over. If we could only be a little but more attentive, pay more attention to each other, play a little bit cleaner, it would make a lot of difference.

Were you surprised that the Chicago Blackhawks started off the season not too well?

They are one of the leaders in the League now. They're in the Top 5. They did have a very tough beginning of the season, because it is very difficult to start a season after winning the Cup. There was a lot of attention the media paid to them. Teams were playing different against them because everyone wants to beat the Cup winner. They also had so many changed made during the offseason. On top of that they had a very tough schedule to start off the season. It all takes its toll. But right now they're back to where they should be.

The Red Wings have been giving up quite a few goals lately. Why do you think that is? Have teams figured out how to play against you?

In some games our defensive play wasn't as confident as it should have been. This is the reason. As we say ‘We wouldn't be lucky if we weren't so unlucky.' When we were giving up a lot, thank God we were scoring even more than we gave up. Until now scoring this extra goal has been saving us. I hope it will continue.

A year ago you told me that Jimmy Howard(notes) was a good goaltender and now the Red Wings signed him long term.

He is a big, strong goalie. He is improving game after game and, of course, he will reach the level of Brodeur, Luongo, Nabokov, Bryzgalov. But he still has a lot of work ahead of him. But he has great chances because he works with our goaltending coaches.

Who do you think is the next rising star of the Red Wings?

It's quite difficult for me to say because I haven't seen a lot of our young players in action. At the same time even though we never pick high in the draft our management and scouting are doing a great job. When we had a lot of injuries this year I really liked Jan Mursak(notes). I think he can really play.

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Do you have a favorite superhero?

Well, he's not really a superhero, but Professor X, the mind reader. I don't think I'd want to read others' minds, but I think it's pretty interesting. Something is interesting until you have it. And once you have it, you find out that maybe it's not that interesting. Maybe once you get it you'll want to get rid of it.

How about the Guardian Project? What do you think of the Red Wings' Guardian?

I have no idea what you're talking about. I have probably missed when it was announced.

Did you watch this year's All Star Game?

No, I didn't.

A lot of players nowadays are active in various social networks like Facebook or Twitter. When are we going to see you on Twitter?

It's difficult to answer this question. Never say never. But right now, or in the nearest couple of years definitely not. It's all connected to the language, and to sit next to someone translating... It's very difficult to translate what I want to say. It's difficult for me to translate my sense of humor into English.

But my official web site is in development right now and it will be launched soon. It will have updates for those who will be interested to know more about me. And as for Twitter, browsing the Internet can take up so much time. I would just rather spend that time reading books.

What are you reading right now that you would recommend to our readers?

I am reading this book right now that I really want to read in English when I am done. It's called 'The Last Lecture' by Randy Pausch. It's about a man who is dying. You know how they say that you have to live every day as if it's your last? And this man is dying and is living his last day every day. It's the philosophy all of us need. Maybe not all of us, but some.

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