Datsyuk best player in the NHL: Babcock

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock had high praise for forward Pavel Datsyuk ahead of his team's games against the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday in Detroit (7:30 p.m. ET).

Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock is of the opinion that the best player in the NHL is not Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby or Vincent Lecavalier of Tampa Bay, but one of his own dynamic duo.

Babcock, in a media conference call on Wednesday, wondered aloud why Detroit's star forwards Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk weren't under consideration.

"It's interesting, I thought Zetterberg was the best player in the NHL in the first six weeks of the season," Babcock said in a media conference call on Wednesday. "I hear everybody last night when I'm watching games talking about Lecavalier and Crosby. But the best player in the league right now is Datsyuk, without any question, in my opinion. He just upped the ante that much."

Babcock has good reason to boast, with the Red Wings off to a torrid pace ahead of their home against Edmonton on Thursday night. Detroitis 22-6-2, with four of those losses coming to the same team, the Chicago Blackhawks.

Detroit enters Thursday's game having won seven consecutive games and with points inits last 11 (9-0-2). The last time the Red Wings failed to earn at least a point was in a Nov. 17 game against, you guessed it, Chicago.

Datsyuk has points in the last nine games, scoring eight and adding eight assists during that span. Zetterberg has earned a point in all but four of Detroit's games this year and is tied for third in the NHL with 41 points (21 goals, 20 assists).

Detroit won a pair of hard-fought games against Edmonton in October. In both games the outcome was not determined until the Red Wings scored in the final minute of the third period.

Edmonton (14-16-2)is coming off a 5-4 shootout win over St. Louis on Tuesday, the team's first victory in four games.

Fernando Pisani scored his first goal of the season and Sheldon Souray scored in his first action after missing 25 games with a shoulder injury. Pisani has been back six games, after being diagnosed with colitis just before the season began.

Shawn Horcoff and Dustin Penner also scored against the Blues, with Ales Hemsky notching three assists. Mathieu Garon finished with 20 saves, coming up huge asthe Oilersfound themselves short-handed late in the third period.

With Souray's return, there are hopes for reviving Edmonton's moribund power play, ranked last in the league. The Oilers two scored two goals with the man advantage against St. Louis.

The Oilers return to Edmonton for three games at home, beginning Saturday against Vancouver (CBC, 10 p.m ET).