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Notes: Nyquist feeling better, ready to go in Toronto

Ryan Sproul's season cut short because of an ACL injury that may require surgery

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

TORONTO - The stomach bug that kept Gustav Nyquist out of Monday's practice won't keep him out of tonight's game in Toronto.

"Much better today," Nyquist sad after the morning skate. "A lot more energy. It's nice to feel a little normal again."

Nyquist said he started feeling ill on the plane ride from Edmonton to Toronto.

But Nyquist said he felt fine Saturday in his first game back after serving his six-game suspension.

"I felt good, to be honest with you," Nyquist said. "I thought I had my legs. I haven't been through that situation before where I've missed games so that was nice to feel that you had your legs going. Still, play can be better, obviously but hopefully I'll get going here tonight."

During the morning skate, Nyquist was on a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Tatar.

"This is kind of a new combination, I guess," Nyquist said. "I played with both players before but I don't think we've played (all) together before. It'll be fun. I like playing with Hank, we played a lot together in the past. Tats is another guy who likes to make plays, can score goals, too. So hopefully we'll be able to provide some offense."

Anthony Mantha shifted to a line with Frans Nielsen and Andreas Athanasiou.

"I think Double-A and Mantha have been a good pairing together in the past," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "I had them for a full year together in the American League and they were real good. So we'll see. I think the (Darren) Helm-Abby (Justin Abdelkader)-(Dylan)Larkin line has really played well the last couple of games. Zetterberg's line has been our best line for most of the year. We need more lines, we need as many lines going as possible, so hopefully Nielsen-Double-A-Mantha can be a good combination. "

PRAISE FOR ZETTERBERG: Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock knows Zetterberg well, having coached him for 10 years in Detroit, so he understands what makes him special.

"It's his drive train," Babcock said. "That's what's separated him all the time. Obviously he had great skill and great vision and elite puck protector. Nik Kronwall, obviously time catches up to everybody, but Nik Kronwall to me is the same way, they're great every single day. So when the people at the top of the organization do it like that, I think it's a great example. Sometimes it doesn't show right away but you think Mantha doesn't see that or Larkin doesn't see that or any of their other young players. They see it and watch it, they see him train and they understand how competitive he is when the game's on the line.

"The other thing is when things go bad in a game, he goes and makes a play. So it's not what you say, it's what you do in big moments. That's why he's got a Cup and a Conn Smythe and all those things."

It's no surprise that when a young player like Larkin or Mantha plays with Zetterberg, they have more success.

"He's a perfect example for sure," Mantha said. "He's been around the league a long time. He knows exactly what it takes to be ready. I think his preparation is the same every game, every practice. It's just something you need to look at and take notes as it comes along."

It was Zetterberg who ensured the Wings got a point in Calgary when he set up Tatar for the tying goal with 1.8 seconds left in regulation.

"That's why he's Henrik Zetterberg," Athanasiou said. "That's why he is who he is and he accomplished what he's accomplished. He still continues to do it night in and night out for us. He's an unbelievable player. It's not that surprising he does that kind of stuff. You saw that play in Calgary and you see the patience. It's unbelievable."

That is why Blashill said he's spoken to the young players and encouraged them to soak in Zetterberg's daily approach.

"He comes to work every day," Blashill said. "He pays attention to detail every day. There isn't a game where his competitive level isn't extremely high. I don't think you can be a great player if you don't have extra on your competitiveness. You can be a good player but you can't be a great one. All the great players have that competitive level. He certainly has it.

"Our guys need to make sure that they uphold that standard that he has set here in Detroit for a number of years, and before him obviously a number of guys before, that they have to uphold that standard of competitiveness."

Zetterberg is in the midst of a six-game point streak, with one goal and nine assists in that span.

Zetterberg has 51 points, the first Wing to reach 50 points. It is the 10th time in his career he has achieved that mark.

"I think there's a lot of different reasons but obviously he's a world-class talent, the way he sees the game, but also the way he carries himself off the ice and works hard," Nyquist said. "It's amazing to see the effort he puts in off the ice after, I don't know how many years he's played now, 13 or 14 years. He's still our best player out there and that's really cool to see. He's a huge part of our team and we're lucky to have him."

SPROUL UPDATE: Just when Ryan Sproul was about to get his chance, his season was cut short.

Sproul injured the ACL in his left knee early in the second period of Saturday's game in Edmonton. "I don't foresee him coming back," Blashill said. "I don't want to say he's out for the rest of the regular season but there is a chance that he might be out for that long. And then it could be much longer than that, depending on if he needs a surgical repair. We won't know that for 10-14 days, once the swelling goes down and we get a better look at the knee."

Sproul played in just 27 games, scoring a goal and six assists. He was minus-8.

After sitting as a healthy scratch much of the season, Sproul was going to get a big opportunity after the Wings traded Brendan Smith to the New York Rangers.

"It was certainly tough to get injured when he was looking at the next stretch of 20 games he was going to have probably his best chance that he was going to have to date in the NHL," Blashill said. "That's a tough thing for sure. But this is life. I talk all the time about inner drive and perseverance being the two biggest factors in success. These are marathons, careers. He's going to have to get his head up and go back to work here, which I'm sure he will."

Robbie Russo replaces Sproul in the lineup as he makes his NHL debut tonight.

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