Detroit Red Wings forward Daniel Alfredsson will miss his fifth straight game Saturday with a groin injury. His presence would have contributed in more ways than one when Detroit faces the Ottawa Senators, the team for whom Alfredsson played the previous 17 seasons.
In his absence, Gustav Nyquist has seized a prime opportunity to find a spot on the Red Wings roster. Playing his first game of the season after being called up from Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League, Nyquist looked at home Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes. On a line with fellow Swedes Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen, Nyquist scored two goals, including the game-winner, in a 4-3 win against the Hurricanes.
Alfredsson has played at times with Zetterberg and Franzen and was impressed by Nyquist's performance with his new linemates.
"[Gustav] is confident and poised with the puck. He's quick and makes good plays," Alfredsson said Saturday. "Playing with Z and Franzen, he fit in extremely well. He made plays and found open spots. You could tell he was excited. Playing the way he did, he brought energy and made plays."
Alfredsson hopes to be back in the Detroit lineup by Wednesday, when the Red Wings face the Boston Bruins at Joe Louis Arena. His return will force Detroit coach Mike Babcock to reconfigure his forward lines, but those changes won't come at Nyquist's expense. The 24-year-old was told after his two-goal performance on Thursday that he would be staying with the Red Wings for the remainder of the season.
"[Nyquist] gave our team a boost," Detroit general manager Ken Holland said. "Our confidence needed a little boost and 17 seconds into the game Gustav Nyquist scored a goal, so it was great for our team, great for Gus and then he scored another goal."
Forward Stephen Weis is also doubtful for Detroit with a groin strain. Like Alfredsson, he expects to be back Wednesday. Jimmy Howard will start in goal for the Red Wings after getting the night off Thursday in favor of backup Jonas Gustavsson. Brian Lashoff left that game with the flu but is expected back.
Senators coach Paul MacLean revealed Robin Lehner would start in net for Ottawa, which has lost four of its past five games. The start will be Lehner's second in Ottawa's past three games. Since returning Nov. 12 from an injury, established starter Craig Anderson has struggled with consistency, allowing 15 goals in four games with a .864 save percentage.
"Right now we're playing back-to-back games in multiple locations. At this point we feel we just alternate the goalies. We'll give them both an opportunity to get us some wins," MacLean said. "I think Craig's been fine. Our team hasn't played particularly well and I think that's a reflection on all of us. No one has been worse than somebody else by any means."
Here are the projected lineups for the Senators and Red Wings:
Milan Michalek - Jason Spezza - Colin Greening
Clarke MacArthur - Kyle Turris - Bobby Ryan
Cory Conacher - Zack Smith - Chris Neil
Mika Zibanejad - Derek Grant - Erik Condra
Marc Methot - Erik Karlsson
Jared Cowen - Patrick Wiercioch
Chris Phillips - Mark Borowiecki
Scratched: Matt Kassian, Eric Gryba, Joe Corvo
Henrik Zetterberg - Johan Franzen - Gustav Nyquist
Todd Bertuzzi - Pavel Datsyuk - Daniel Cleary
Justin Abdelkader - Darren Helm - Tomas Tatar
Drew Miller - Joakim Andersson - Mikael Samuelsson
Jonathan Ericsson - Niklas Kronwall
Brendan Smith - Kyle Quincey
Jakub Kindl - Brian Lashoff
Injured: Daniel Alfredsson (groin), Stephen Weiss (groin), Danny DeKeyser (separated shoulder)