He didn’t have a choice.

Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg had played the first 11 games of the season together on the same line.

But no more.

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock simply couldn’t wait any longer, especially after three winless games (0-2-1) and a total of three goals.

“I told them I wasn’t going to split them up, and 11 games in I’m splitting them up,” Babcock said. “It wasn’t my plan and not necessarily what I wanted to do, but we need to.”

So, Saturday against the Rangers, Datsyuk will be between Todd Bertuzzi and Daniel Alfredsson, while Zetterberg centers Johan Franzen and Tomas Tatar.

“It could be a record,” Zetterberg said, laughing, of the 11-game stretch he and Datsyuk were together. “Babs was pretty up front with it, that we’ll be playing together until he need to switch it up. Now is the time.”

The third line will consist of Stephen Weiss centering Daniel Cleary and Justin Abdelkader. Joakim Andersson is between Jordin Tootoo and Drew Miller on the fourth line.

“We just have to generate more offense,” Babcock said. “We need to get more going, it’s too easy to shut down one or two guys. ... We need Alfie (Alfredsson) and Mule (Franzen) and a whole bunch of guys to score. We haven’t gotten that as much with them not playing with those guys (Datsyuk, Zetterberg).

“If we get them playing with those guys, maybe they can score as well.”

The change could be an opportunity for Tatar, a rookie who has impressed during limited time.