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Opportunity knocks for Nyquist

Rookie forward will skate on Datsyuk's line vs. Washington

Monday, 03.19.2012 / 5:49 PM / News
By Bill Roose  - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com
Gustav Nyquist recently became the all-time leading rookie scorer in Grand Rapids Griffins history. He'll skate on a line with Pavel Datsyuk on Monday vs. Washington. (Photo by Getty Images)
DETROIT – Seeking to jumpstart a slumping offense, the Red Wings plan to put two of the organization’s most creative playmaking forwards together when they host the Washington Capitals at Joe Louis Arena on Monday.

Detroit recalled Gustav Nyquist from Grand Rapids to replace Darren Helm, whom the Wings learned on Monday will be sidelined 4-6 weeks with a sprained left knee.

Nyquist, the sensational 22-year-old Swedish forward will be paired with Russian superstar Pavel Datsyuk, along with forward Todd Bertuzzi. Whether or not Nyquist will last more than a shift or two is yet to be seen, but coach Mike Babcock is hopeful that the Wings can catch lightning in a bottle with the rookie.

“He’s done a real good job for us in the minors. We know it’s a totally different league. He’s got skill and he’s got a mind. We like that,” Babcock said, of Nyquist, who has three assists in eight games with the Wings this season. “Obviously, we haven’t generated near enough offense. We’re trying to be better. We lost Helmer the last game, so that changes things a little bit. We’re just trying to figure it out.”

With a win tonight, the Wings would pull into the No. 4 seed, two-points ahead of Nashville in the Western Conference standings. However, they must find a way to score, particularly at even-strength, especially since the power play is 4-for-46 over the last 12 games.

Since posting back-to-back wins three weeks ago against Columbus and Minnesota, the Wings have stumbled, posting a 1-5-1 record while averaging 1.85 goals per game.

“We’re not rolling right along,” Babcock said. “We’re a team that needs to find a way to win some games, and we’re probably a little fragile right now. We need to feel good about ourselves, and the guys understand that totally and want to play well, and want to get wins. That’s why you’re in the game. We left on the road trip with the potential for eight points and we got one. That’s the reality.”

While Henrik Zetterberg’s line has accounted for 46 percent of the team’s offense in the last seven games, the Wings need greater production from others, and the hope is that Datsyuk and Nyquist can get it going quickly.

With a three-point performance on Saturday, Nyquist, a two-time Hobey Baker Award finalist at the University of Maine, established a new Griffins’ rookie scoring record. He is currently ninth in AHL scoring with 22 goals and 36 assists in 56 minor-league games.

The previous Griffins’ record was held by center Glen Metropolit (55 points in 79 games) during the 1997-98 campaign.

In his three previous call-ups to the Wings this season, Nyquist has played on lines with no fewer than five different forwards, including Bertuzzi, Danny Cleary, Johan Franzen, Cory Emmerton and Joakim Andersson.

But playing for the first time with arguably the best two-way forward in the world can be overwhelming.

“You can't think about that playing out there,” Nyquist said. “You just have to play your game and play good as a line and try and get some chemistry. I've been growing up watching him play and now to get put on a line with him, it's something and a good opportunity I need to take advantage of it and have some fun out there.”

Another first-time opportunity for Nyquist comes when he gets his first chance to play against the Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin, who scored his 30th goal of the season Sunday, thus becoming the ninth player in NHL history to reach the 30-goal plateau in their first seven seasons.

“It'll be fun. Haven't played against him yet, even in preseason,” Nyquist said. “He's a great player. We'll all be aware of where he is out there. … I think we'll be able to handle him pretty good.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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