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For Nyquist, Game 2 will be 'a lot of fun'

Rookie will make is Stanley Cup playoff debut on Friday

Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 6:55 PM ET / News
By Bill Roose  -
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For Nyquist, Game 2 will be \'a lot of fun\'
Gustav Nyquist will make his playoff debut when he plays in Friday's Game 2 of the Western Conference quarterfinal at Nashville. (Photo by Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – It’s not the way he wanted to get into his first Stanley Cup playoff game, but nonetheless, Gustav Nyquist will be ready once the puck drops on Game 2 of the Western Conference quarterfinal series Friday night at Bridgestone Arena.

“Looking back, I didn’t even think I’d get a chance to play in the playoffs when the season started,” said Nyquist, who began the year in Grand Rapids. “But you know, it’s very exciting and if it happens, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Nyquist, the 22-year-old rookie forward, will be inserted into the Red Wings’ lineup after center Darren Helm suffered a season-ending laceration to his right forearm in Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to the Predators in Game 1.

At Thursday’s practice, Nyquist skated on the third forward line alongside center Justin Abdelkader and forward Danny Cleary.

Helm, who was cut by an errand skate blade, was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where he underwent surgery to repair severed tendons late Wednesday night.

His absence leaves a big hole for the Wings to fill, particularly on the penalty kill where he causes so much commotion for the opposition that it makes replacing him a challenge. However, Nyquist, who was named to the AHL’s all-rookie team last week, has been equally impressive every time he was recalled by the Wings to fill in – mainly for injured players – this season.

But while coach Mike Babcock announced his decision to put the Swedish rookie in for Game 2, he stressed that Nyquist’s role isn’t to mimic Helm.

“It's like all important players you miss you don't fill their role, you get someone else to do what they do,” Babcock said. “We'd like our bottom six to play more so ideally the game will be that way tomorrow that we can do that.”

Babcock was clearly heartbroken for Helm’s bad luck. He returned to the lineup Wednesday for the first time since missing 10 games with a sprained left knee suffered last month.

“It's tough. We talked about him on the positive side yesterday and then we lost him last night,” Babcock said. “Tough for the kid, he's a great kid, he plays hard, he's an important part of our team.

“You move on and get ready for another game. We have to win a game here, that's what our focus has to be. I feel bad for Helmer. He's a big part of our club. We're very thankful there was no nerve damage and so I think that's the most important thing, he's going to get well and have a summer to train and get back at it in the fall.”

A fourth-round draft pick in 2008, and a two-time Hobey Baker Award finalist at the University of Maine, Helm left college after three years to sign with the Wings’ organization 13 months ago.

He drew great reviews from Babcock for his efforts in training camp, and especially for his three-point outing in final exhibition game against Pittsburgh.

“We’ve always done the same thing and sent those kids to the minors and let them play a little bit, and see what we’ve got here. We’ll see how the year starts,” Babcock said on Oct. 2. “I mean, it’s an exhibition game. Let’s not kid ourselves. And I’m not trying to take anything away from the kid. He was outstanding and he’s been great all camp.”

While there are three games left to the AHL schedule, Nyquist leads the Griffins in scoring with 22 goals and 36 assists in 56 games as a first-year pro player. He also has a goal and six assists in 18 games with the Wings.

He played in Helm’s absence at the end of the regular-season, collecting a goal and three assists in the final 10 games.

“He’s ready to play in this league, he shows that every time he comes in and plays,” center Henrik Zetterberg said. “He makes good decisions, skates well and is dangerous when he gets the opportunity, so it’s going to be fun to see him play playoff hockey.”

But Nyquist knows that the intensity of the playoffs will be different than anything he’s already experienced in his young NHL life.

“It’s a tight game. That’s what you see,” he said. “I don’t think we gave up a lot of chances for them. They did a pretty good job of keeping us out of the middle. That’s what we have to work on tomorrow. That’s playoff hockey. It’s pretty tight, not a lot of chances. If you get them, you have to score.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose




1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69


H. Zetterberg 82 13 37 -15 50
P. Datsyuk 66 16 33 7 49
D. Larkin 80 23 22 11 45
T. Tatar 81 21 24 4 45
G. Nyquist 82 17 26 -2 43
J. Abdelkader 82 19 23 -16 42
M. Green 74 7 28 -6 35
B. Richards 68 10 18 4 28
D. Helm 77 13 13 -2 26
N. Kronwall 64 3 23 -21 26
P. Mrazek 27 16 6 .921 2.33
J. Howard 14 14 5 .906 2.80