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Legwand goes from foe to top-line center

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
David Legwand played 69 regular-season games against the Red Wings. Now, the Michigan native will join Johan Franzen and Gustav Nyquist on Detroit's top forward line Thursday night. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT Gustav Nyquist has faced the Nashville Predators a handful of times in his young career, which is just enough for him to know what to expect from David Legwand in his Red Wings’ debut tonight against the Colorado Avalanche at Joe Louis Arena.

It’s expected that Legwand, who was acquired from Nashville at Wednesday’s trade deadline, will center the top line with Nyquist and Johan Franzen on the wings.

In return for Legwand, the Predators’ first-ever draft pick in franchise history, they received veteran forward Patrick Eaves, minor-league center Calle Jarnkrok, and a conditional third-round draft pick in 2014.

Legwand, who is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, was difficult to play against, Nyquist said.

“He knows where to be, he’s always above his guy so it’s tough as a centerman, if you have a centerman who is above you, the middle guy all of the time, it’s tough to get on inside,” Nyquist said. “That’s what he does. He’s real good offensively, he’s played on the power play, I’ve seen him on the power play there in Nashville and created a lot of chances there, so hopefully he can do the same tonight for us.”

Red Wings players are quite familiar with Legwand as both Detroit and Nashville used to longtime Central Division rivals before the Wings moved to the Eastern Conference this season. In 69 career games against the Red Wings, Legwand produced 15 goals and 41 points, which is his third-best mark against league teams. He only registered more points against Chicago (61) and Columbus (48) during his 15 seasons with the Predators.

“We played him a lot through the years, so we know he’s a great player, a smart player, he’s tough to play against,” Franzen said. “He’s that guy who’s always on top of you; he’s a good two-way guy. So it’s good to have him here.”

Legwand, who still lives in Harrison Township during the offseason, knows many of the veterans on this team, having skated in the past with guys who’ve remained in area in the summer months. So assimilating quickly with his new team shouldn’t be much of a problem.

“He’s such a good player so I think he’ll adjust,” Nyquist said. “Probably take him a few games with new systems and everything but, I mean, he’s such a good player that I don’t think it will be too hard for him.”

With Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Darren Helm and Stephen Weiss sidelined, the Red Wings could really use Legwand to make an immediate mark with his new linemates.

“He’s a smart guy out there,” Franzen said. “He’s probably going to try to read off me and Gus as much as possible and go from there.”

Legwand produced 10 goals and 40 points through 62 games with the Predators, including three goals and 12 points in his past 15 games. Meanwhile, Nyquist and Franzen have produced 18 points each in their past 15 contests.

“He’s a real good, solid player,” Nyquist said. “He’s put up quite a few points for a long time, so he’s a really good centerman and I’m really looking forward to playing with him tonight.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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