WATCH: Red Wings' Datsyuk Says It's Hard to Make Final Decision Now
DETROIT (AP) - Pavel Datsyuk has been drawing eyes and dropping jaws with his dazzling skills, dangling pucks on his stick and snatching them from opponents for more than a decade.
He isn't used to doing it with his words.
Datsyuk did just that over the weekend when he revealed plans to leave the Detroit Red Wings after the playoffs with a year left on his contract to reunite with his teenage daughter and continue his career in Russia. He was peppered with questions Monday, a day after being quoted in a Detroit Free Press story saying he was retiring from the NHL as soon as Detroit finishes its postseason run.
Datsyuk told reporters Monday there is a chance he could change his mind.
"It's hard to make a 100-percent decision now," he said. "Now, it's just more focus on the playoffs. Let the fun begin."
The 37-year-old Datsyuk sounded as if he was surprised by the stir he created by confirming what had been reported a week earlier by Sportsnet. He would much rather focus on Game 1 in Tampa Bay on Wednesday night.
When the series shifts to Detroit for Game 3 on Sunday, expect red-clad screaming fans in the Motor City to lobby for the Magic Man to return next season. Last week at home against Philadelphia, the "One more year!" chants almost brought Datsyuk to tears.
"It was really emotional and it set me back a bit," he said.
Datsyuk, who signed a three-year, $22.5 million contract, will count $7.5 million against Detroit's salary cap next season even if he retires.
"Yeah, I'm really troubled by this one," he acknowledged. "I make a mistake. I need to sign year by year."
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said he will not comment on Datsyuk's future until the season is over. Detroit coach Jeff Blashill spoke, but said little about the situation.
"I'm glad Pav is in our lineup on Wednesday," he said.
Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg is close with Datsyuk, a teammate since 2002, and isn't surprised to hear that the word has spread about Datsyuk's desire to go home.
"I had a feeling," he said.
Detroit drafted Datsyuk in the sixth round in 1998 and he made his NHL debut three years later, helping the Red Wings win the Stanley Cup as a rookie. He was one of the franchise's stars as it won another title in 2008, the year in which he won his first of three straight Selke Trophies as the league's top defensive forward.
"One of the best two-way players in the game, and has been for a long time and continues to be," Blashill said. "He's a poster child of what it takes to be successful in this league now. He's skilled, but he competes hard, he's physical on puck and he's extremely good defensively."
Datsyuk helped Detroit extend its postseason streak to 25 years this season, finishing third in the Atlantic Division. He had 49 points after missing the first month of the season while recovering from ankle surgery.
"He looks pretty quick and shifty to me right now," Blashill said.
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