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Amidst injuries, kids showing they're alright in Detroit

by Brian Hedger
DETROIT -- If there is a silver lining to the multitude of injuries the Detroit Red Wings have been saddled with this season, it's that several young players have gotten a chance to show what they can do in the NHL.

Cory Emmerton has basically taken on the fourth-line center's role, Jan Mursak is finally back up to speed after a broken leg in training camp set him back, and defenseman Brendan Smith and forward Gustav Nyquist both made their presence felt.

Smith was sent back to Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League on Saturday night, after Nicklas Lidstrom returned, while Nyquist is still with the Wings likely until Johan Franzen returns. Both left impressions on their teammates and Red Wings coach Mike Babcock.

"I thought (Smith) was really good," Babcock said. "We just sent him down because we need to play the players that are here, but we also need to play him. I thought he played great for us. Smitty did a real good job. He's just got to continue to grow with his maturity, his decisions with and without the puck, but I think he's an NHL player for sure.''

And the 22-year old Nyquist?

"As far as Gus, I just noticed he's got 5 points in (his last) six games, so by accident he gets points," Babcock said. "It's a good opportunity. He's a real smart player. He's good without the puck. He's got a lot to learn, but it looks like he's a legitimate NHL player.''

Nyquist, who's playing left wing on the second line with center Pavel Datsyuk and forward Todd Bertuzzi, doesn't have any goals yet -- but Swedish star center Henrik Zetterberg isn't worried.

"He has everything," said Zetterberg, whose own line with Valterri Filppula and Jiri Hudler is scorching hot right now. "He's fast. He's good with the puck and he sees the ice very well. He's just got to commit to the shot a little bit more, but that's ... everyone who comes over here from Sweden, that's a tough thing to do. But he will learn soon."

Lidstrom had some high praise for Smith, as well.

"He's a very good skater," Lidstrom said. "He brings the puck up the ice real well and he's really good at reading plays, when to get up in the play. I think it's just a matter of getting used to playing up here at this level of hockey and the tempo and keeping it simple. He did that, too. When he was in trouble, he got rid of the puck or got the puck out of our own zone -- which is something you want to do. He adjusted real well to that."
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