VANCOUVER – Confidence is a wonderful thing for a young player trying to earn ice-time and gain the trust in his coaches as is the case with speedy forward Gustav Nyquist.
“I’ve got a great opportunity here to play, and just learning every game,” said Nyquist, who continues to impress the Red Wings’ coaching staff with every passing game. “The more games you play the more comfortable you feel out there. You know what you can do at certain times.”
Nyquist has benefited by playing on the third line with center Joakim Andersson, who began the season as teammates with the Red Wings’ AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids.
It’s taken some time for Nyquist to get going at the NHL level, but it appears that he’s elevated his game as he’s gained greater responsibility and playing on the second power play unit.
“That's usually how I play in GR, play on the power play, top two lines, it's been great to get those opportunities and show them what you have,” he said.
Nyquist and Damien Brunner, both speedy wingers, are hard to play against for opposing defensemen. The pair continues to bring energy every night, every shift with a heavy forechecking presence. And it was that tight forecheck that led to Nyquist’s second-period goal in Calgary on Wednesday.
“Both me and Brunner try to use our speed as much as possible, get the puck deep and work the D-men down low,” Nyquist said Friday following the Red Wings practice at Rogers Arena. “That's what all three of us are good at, and finding some soft spots in the middle for a shot. That's a big part of my game, to use my speed, and that's what I'm trying to do.”
Coach Mike Babcock, as he has reiterated at times this season, said that youngsters like Andersson and Nyquist need to seize the moment – and with several veteran forwards still battling injuries – take advantage of the opportunity.
The 23-year-old rookie is a natural zone, which could be a reason for his slow assimilation to the wing. When Nyquist was recalled from minors for the fourth time this season, he held the scoring lead in the AHL, where he was a point-per-game player. Since he was brought back on March 20, he has three goals, two assists and a plus-3 rating in 13 games.
The Andersson line had several good scoring chances against the Flames, including Brunner who registered a career-high seven shots on Miikka Kiprusoff, who made 36 saves. But to his credit, the Calgary veteran goaltender was outstanding.
With five games remaining, the Wings are in need of wins beginning Saturday against the Canucks. The key for the third line, Nyquist said, is to maintain the same momentum that the trio had on Wednesday.
“Last game was kind of a weird one,” he said. “All our lines had a lot of chances, especially in the last two periods and Brunner had five shots in the first. We didn't come out the way we wanted, but there's some good things to bring over to the Vancouver game and try to stay on the path that we played on in the second and third periods.”
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