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Andersson makes NHL debut

by Zack Crawford / Detroit Red Wings
Joakim Andersson became the third Red Wings' rookie to make his NHL debut this season when he logged 5:10 of ice-time against the Blues Tuesday. (Photo by Dave Reginek)
DETROITJoakim Andersson was preparing to practice with the Grand Rapids Griffins on Tuesday morning when the Red Wings called with news that he would make his NHL debut in a matter of hours.

Andersson, 22, packed his bags, drove to Detroit and — after a quick nap at the hotel — donned a Red Wings uniform for the first time in his career. He was the seventh player to make his Wings' debut this season, including forward Gustav Nyquist and defenseman Brendan Smith, who also made their NHL debuts.

The Red Wings arrived home from a win in Nashville late Monday night with an injured Tomas Homstrom (groin) and the prospect of another game — against a much bigger team — within 24 hours.

With 18 of 23 players on St. Louis’ active roster weighing more than 200 pounds (and seven players over 220), the Wings, who have only 11 players over 200, needed some weight to stack up against the Blues.

At 6-foot-2 and 198 pounds, Andersson provided a physical presence in the lineup that offset the loss of Holmstrom and helped the Wings to a 3-2 comeback victory over the Blues at Joe Louis Arena. Holmstrom is expected to be out of the lineup for at least 10 days.

And even if Andersson’s contributions didn’t dramatically affect the course of the game – he logged 5:10 of ice-time with one hit on Blues defenseman Kris Russell – being called up for the night certainly changed the course of his holiday week.

“It’s a special feeling to play,” said Andersson, afterwards. “It’s a dream come true to play in the NHL with Detroit. It’s an honor to be a part of this organization. It was a special feeling to put the jersey on and skate out here.”

Acquired by the Wings in the third-round of the 2007 draft, Andersson has played center with the Griffins since the beginning of the 2010-11 season. The Griffin’s last game was four days before Christmas, so Andersson was well-rested for his first appearance at JLA. He finally made his debut 2:12 into the first period as a winger on the fourth line with Cory Emmerton and Justin Abdelkader.

Competing in all 29 of the Griffins’ games so far this season, Andersson has picked up eight goals and nine assists. The Swede has been generating on a line with Nyquist, who made his NHL debut when he was called up to play Dec. 1 against the Minnesota Wild.

“I play center down there, but it was fun to play on the wing,” Andersson said. “I could pick up stuff from (Henrik) Zetterberg and (Pavel) Datsyuk and all these guys, just small things like how they see the ice and what kind of plays they make and how they play defensively.”

Wearing the No. 63, Andersson completed eight shifts throughout the night. His girlfriend and her mother watched from the stands as he and the Wings pushed a point ahead of St. Louis in the Central Division standings.

“I got more comfortable after a few shifts and know a little bit about what it’s all about,” Andersson said. “It was fun. Of course I love to play up here, but it’s a good team so I’ve got to be patient.”

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