Pavel Datsyuk has missed more than a month, so he’ll likely need some time to get up to speed. But just having him in the lineup will be a big boost for the Detroit Red Wings.

Datsyuk will return tonight against the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center (7:30, Fox Sports Detroit). He has missed 14 games with an unspecified knee issue.

“Sooner or later I needed to start,” Datsyuk said after the morning skate. “I’ve been waiting enough.”

It was Datsyuk’s decision. He is the captain of the Russian Olympic team and wanted to play in a couple of games before heading to Sochi, Russia, on Sunday.

“I just hope we’re doing the right thing,” coach Mike Babcock said. “I hope we’re not bringing him back just because it’s the Olympics. I hope he’s actually ready and we’re going to find out tonight. One thing about getting back on the ice, you can’t hide out there.

“It’s in his country, he wants to play bad, but he’s a smart guy, he isn’t going to jeopardize his career over something like this. Makes no sense. So we got to trust him. Same way it happens all the time. You trust them. In the end they make the decision. That’s what injured players do.”

Asked how he feels, Datsyuk said, “It’s hard to say but when game starts, I start to more feel it and then I can say. But now it’s OK.”