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Pavel Datsyuk Needs New Linemates

Yahoo Contributor Network
Pavel Datsyuk Needs New Linemates
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Pavel Datsyuk's skills are being handcuffed when he is on a line with Justin Abdelkader and Daniel C …

COMMENTARY | Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock has juggled the lines quite a bit since the start of the season, mostly because of injuries, but there have been some slumps as well.

However, no line combination has confused me more than putting Pavel Datsyuk on a line with Justin Abdelkader and Daniel Cleary.

I realize the injuries to Todd Bertuzzi, Valtteri Filppula, Mikael Samuelsson and Darren Helm have left Babcock in a bit of a bind. But with Tomas Tatar and Joakim Andersson playing so well, why not have Datsyuk center a line with Tatar and Andersson?

Cleary and Abdelkader are grinders -- their skill set is geared more toward the third or fourth line. Cleary has been known to put up 40 points in a season, but he isn't the goal scorer he used to be. At the rate he is going now -- seven points in 23 games -- he'll be lucky to get 20 points.

Tatar (seven points in 15 games) and Andersson (six points in 13 games) have been producing quite a bit for being on the third line with Patrick Eaves. Imagine what these two could do if they were with Datsyuk.

Datsyuk has one point in the past four games, and that one point came as a secondary assist to Niklas Kronwall's goal Tuesday, March 5 against the Colorado Avalanche -- a goal that Abdelkader or Cleary had nothing to do with.

Datsyuk needs skill players around him, or his skills essentially are useless. I can't tell you how many times Datsyuk has made a great pass to Cleary or Abdelkader only to have them fumble the pass or get it poked check off their stick.

Remember when Datsyuk was on a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Damien Brunner? He was producing almost every night. He had nine points in six games in January and a five-game goal streak in the middle part of February before the lines were changed.

Tatar has great speed that can compliment Datsyuk's skill, and Andersson is a big body with a great set of hands.

Abdelkader can center the third line with Cleary and Eaves.

It kills me to see Datsyuk's talent go to waste. Put some skill players around him so he can continue to produce like he did earlier in the season.

Tom Mitsos is a Michigan native who covers the Detroit Red Wings for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He also is a high school sports reporter at MLive Media Group. You can follow Tom on Twitter @tom_mitsos.

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