DETROIT – Tonight’s Red Wings game against the Vancouver Canucks will feature 13 players slated to represent their countries in the upcoming Sochi Olympics.
Gustav Nyquist hopes that number goes to 14 before the puck drops at Joe Louis Arena.
“It would be a lot of fun to go with all of these Swedes in this room,’ Nyquist said. “To go to Sochi and to represent your country in the Olympics is, would be something special, and I would be really excited for it.”
Nyquist is considered the top candidate to replace Red Wings’ teammate Johan Franzen on the Tre Kroner team. Franzen pulled out of the Olympics last week when side-effects from post-concussion syndrome landed the veteran forward on injured reserve again.
Nyquist has played out of this world recently, producing 12 points in his past eight games, including the first four-point performance of his career in Sunday’s 6-5 overtime loss at Washington.
“It was something that I will remember for sure,” said Nyquist, who scored three goals against the Capitals. “It was a special feeling, but we wanted to get those two points; it doesn’t really matter who scores. Unfortunately we only got one (point) last night, big game coming up against Vancouver tonight.”
Published reports in Sweden have called for coach Pär Mårts to added Nyquist to the national team roster, noting his skill and confidence, which has definitely spiked on the Wings’ top-line with Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader.
“Gus has really played well here of late,” said Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, who will coach Team Canada in the Olympics. “When he skates he’s a real good player for us. He’s working hard on his shot, becoming more dangerous with it. When he touches the puck he’s always looking to pass it to someone first, but when you’re playing with Zetterberg you’re getting passes. Abdelkader always does a real good job of being heavy for those guys. That line is making a lot of plays right now. They’ve been excellent both defensively and offensively. Good for him. You have to earn your confidence in the league. They don’t give it to you. He’s earned some.”
Swedish team officials are expected to make an announcement on Franzen’s replace sometime today, Nyquist said.
“We’ll see what happens here,” he said. “I think they’ll announce it tonight, Swedish time, so we’ll all know by this afternoon, I’m assuming, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”
Since join the Red Wings’ roster on a full-time basis in November, Nyquist has been a steady contributor, collecting 13 goals and 22 points in 30 games.
Besides Zetterberg, the other Olympians expected to play at The Joe tonight are Red Wings Tomas Jurco and Tomas Tatar (Slovakia); Daniel Alfredsson, Jonas Gustavsson, Jonathan Ericsson and Niklas Kronwall (Sweden); along with Canucks Roberto Luongo and Dan Hamhuis (Canada); Alexander Edler and Daniel Sedin (Sweden); Yannick Weber (Switzerland); and Ryan Kesler (United States).
Center Pavel Datsyuk is out for the Red Wings with a lower body injury and Jimmy Howard will backup Gustavsson between the pipes. Meanwhile, center Henrik Sedin has missed the last six games for the Canucks with an upper body injury.
Datsyuk hasn’t played since the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day. He was picked to be captain of Russia’s Olympic team and desperately wants to play in at least one of the Red Wings’ final three games before the break.
“I’m just trying to make sure I play one or two games (before),” Datsyuk said. “That’s my goal now.’
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