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Rambler's Top100

28 2006 . 
Datsyuk plans to shoot more // Detroit Free Press

BY HELENE ST. JAMES

Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk is on pace to finish with fewer points than he had his second year in the NHL.

Datsyuk has 14 points in 23 games, a rate of return that'll yield about 50 points over the 82-game season. Last season after 23 games, he was at 25 points, en route to a career-high 87 points. Datsyuk had 68 points the previous season and 51 points in 2002-03.

What ails him? Numerous things. For one, he doesn't have a proven finisher on his wing like he did last season in Brendan Shanahan (who has a league-high 17 goals with the Rangers). Second, the forwards are asked to help out a lot more defensively this season. Third, Datsyuk is convinced opponents have him figured out: They expect him to pass, not throw the puck on net.

"Now I start shoot it, maybe something change," Datsyuk said. "Now if I change my mind and try shoot it, he (the opponent) has to decide what I do. I need (to) shoot more."

Entering Monday's game against Dallas, Datsyuk ranked 11th on the team with 34 shots, trailing, among others, Kris Draper, Johan Franzen, Tomas Holmstrom and Dan Cleary. Datsyuk took three shots versus the Stars, but he never has been much of a shooter; in four previous NHL seasons, he has never averaged more than two per game.

At the very least, Datsyuk's shooting on net opens the possibility of a rebound. The Wings want him to generate offense.

"He's still making plays out there," Nicklas Lidstrom said. "But I think he can shoot the puck a little bit more, instead of trying to deke that last guy. It seems like he shot it a little bit more last year, and he scored some goals shooting it through guys. They're ready for him to try to go around them or sneak a pass through them, so if he can shoot the puck through a little bit more, he can create more chances that way."

Last season the Wings were the most potent offensive team in the league with a 3.67 goals-per-game average. This season they're in the bottom third. The team didn't expect to score as much, given the departure of Shanahan and Steve Yzerman, but Datsyuk, whose $3.9 million salary is second highest on the team, leads the cast of those who have underachieved.

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