SOCHI, Russia – There is no doubt about where Pavel Datsyuk’s allegiances lie right now. He is a Russian first and a member of the Detroit Red Wings second.
The star centre pronounced himself fit to play in the Winter Olympics despite nursing a lower-body injury that limited him to just two NHL games since Jan. 1. While there is a feeling that he’s far from 100 per cent – Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said as much after arriving here on Monday – Datsyuk disputed that fact after practicing with Team Russia at the Bolshoy Ice Dome on Tuesday.
“Everything’s fine,” said Datsyuk. “My injury does not bother me at all. Babcock is not my concern right now. I’m fully acclimatized, all in the same conditions.”
This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the 35-year-old, who will serve as captain of the host country. Clearly he doesn’t want to miss it.
Datsyuk seemed a bit agitated by all of the discussion around his ailment, which kept him from skating after landing in Sochi on Monday. The Russians open the tournament against Slovenia on Thursday.
“I will play,” he said. “I give it my hundred per cent what I get.”
This is the fourth Olympics for Datsyuk and he’s seeking his first gold medal. As much as the Red Wings would probably prefer that he rest up for the playoff push, they support his decision to play here.
“Pavel is a proud Russian who has come home to win a medal for his country and he’s going to do everything he can to do that,” said Babcock. “He’s been injured, but he’s on his way back from injury. I think obvious there’s some opportunity here with the way the tournament’s set up for him to spend more time to get feeling better.”