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Notes: Nyquist returns to lineup after suspension

Wings will face Connor McDavid and company for the second time this season

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji / DetroitRedWings.com

EDMONTON - It felt like longer than six games but Gustav Nyquist is back.

The league suspended Nyquist for his hit on Minnesota's Jared Spurgeon Feb. 12 and the Wings had their bye in the middle of the six-game sit-down.

"I'm just excited to get in," Nyquist said after Saturday's optional morning skate. "Hopefully I've done my work here off the ice and I'll have some good energy out there. It's different. With the break, the bye week there, it turned into a little longer in between games than I expected but I'm just excited to get in there."

Wings coach Jeff Blashill did not indicate on which line Nyquist would play.

"Whichever line he's on, he's going to play with good players," Blashill said. "When Nyquie plays his best hockey he wins battles, he skates. I think the No. 1 thing with Nyquie is if he's skating from the tops of the circles to the tops of the circles he's a real effective player. When he doesn't move his feet from the tops of circles to the tops of circles he's not quite as effective. That's going to be a big key for him."

Before the suspension, Nyquist had success playing with Henrik Zetterberg and Anthony Mantha.

Nyquist is tied for fourth on the team in scoring with Tomas Tatar with 29 points. His 22 assists are second only to Zetterberg's 35.

"It gives us another option, even more talent, a guy that can really put the puck in the net," Niklas Kronwall said. "Not just a sniper but also a guy that can pass the puck really well and open up seams and plays for other guys."

Although there's only 20 games left in the regular season and the Wings are in last place in the Atlantic Division with 61 points in 62 games, Nyquist said they're not giving up.

"We've had a season where there's been a lot of ups and downs," Nyquist said. "I think consistently we probably haven't been good enough. But we're still not out of this yet and we're going to do everything we can to get on a roll and try to make it into these playoffs. We still believe in our team in there and that's what we're going to try to do."

OILERS AND MCDAVID: The Edmonton Oilers are third in the Pacific Division with 76 points in 64 games and fifth in the Western Conference.

Then there's Oilers captain Connor McDavid, who just turned 20 on Jan. 13.

McDavid has 21 goals among 72 points in 64 games.

"I think he's one of the best players in the league. He's a huge factor," Blashill said. "This league is separated by very, very little things. Elite players like that make a huge difference. I think most of the teams around the league are pretty close to the same. Some teams have a little better specialty teams, some teams have little better goaltending, some teams are healthy, all that kind of stuff. But certainly elite players separate teams and he's one of the elite, so he'll have a factor, we got to make sure it's as minimal as possible."

Kronwall said it has to be a team effort to hold down McDavid.

"Just try to take away all the space you can," Kronwall said. "He's going to create his chances but you want to try to eliminate them as much as possible. As far as the D-men doing a good job, I think it's a unit of five out there that have to try to take away as much space as possible from him."

The most McDavid has gone this season without getting at least one point is two games.

But it's not just the McDavid show.

The Oilers have some bigger players in Milan Lucic at 6-foot-3, 233 pounds and Zack Kassian at 6-foot-3, 217 pounds.

"They changed their look a little for sure," Nyquist said. "Those are heavy guys on the forecheck. You've got to make sure you cut those guys off so they can't come in hard on your D, so you give our D a little more time to make a play instead of getting run in our own zone. You've got to make sure to cut those guys off a little bit."

The Oilers also have a couple of young, solid Swedes on defense in Adam Larsson, who is 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, and Oscar Klefbom, who is 6-foot-3, 215 pounds.

"They've been able to really solidify their defense, I think, in a way that they haven't been able to do in the past," Kronwall said. "Of course with the leadership of (Andrej) Sekera and some of the guys that settle things down a little bit. I think Klefbom has been really good now for a few years. He made some huge strides last year and he's been scoring like crazy this year. Larsson is just an extremely good two-way defenseman. He keeps it simple and a match-up guy. So in those two guys they've got a great pairing."

MRAZEK SET TO GO: Petr Mrazek may have been busy Friday night in Calgary, making 28 saves in the 3-2 overtime loss, but that doesn't mean he won't start again.

All indications are that Mrazek will start against the Oilers.

Mrazek has started both games of a back-to-back before. First he did so on Feb. 3 at home against the New York Islanders and Feb. 4 in Nashville, both wins.

Mrazek also started Feb. 18 at home against the Washington Capitals and Feb. 19 at Pittsburgh, also both wins.

"Part of our decision process, certainly he has done well in back-to-backs, so as we make that decision, that will factor into it," Blashill said. "I think our team has done well on back-to-backs. We've done poorly against teams that have been on backs-to-backs against us. I think this is part of the league. We got in here at a fine time. There's no excuse, let's go plays at a high level in order to win."

Mrazek is 15-16-7 with a 2.95 goals-against average and .903 save percentage but he is coming off his best month.

In February, Mrazek went 5-4-1 with a 2.39 goals-against average and .923 save percentage.

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