DETROIT – An undrafted free agent signing in the summer, Tomas Nosek made the most of his ice time and impressed his coach and teammates in Thursday’s preseason home opener.
“He’s a man, he’s smart, he’s confident, he’s a good player, he’s got skill, he does good things, big body,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I really like him a lot.”
Nosek scored his first goal as a pro in North America, helping lift the Red Wings to a 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks in the preseason home opener at Joe Louis Arena.
Nosek’s goal came in the opening minute of the third period when he pushed a backhand shot under Chicago goalie Michael Leighton at 29 seconds. Justin Abdelkader and Andrej Nestrasil picked up assists on the goal that gave the Wings a 2-0 lead.
Nestrasil gave the Wings their second two-goal cushion, 3-1, with his own backhand goal – assisted by his countryman Nosek and Abdelkader – at 11:52.
“I thought Nosek was really good, and Nestrasil is getting better,” Babcock said. “I thought those guys in particular were really good.”
The 22-year-old Nosek played 129 games in the Czech Republic’s top league for the past three seasons, producing 24 goals and 62 points, and helping his team capture the league championship during his rookie season in 2011-12.
Nosek also served as team captain during the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championships in Calgary and Edmonton, recording an assist in six games for the Czechs.
It’s expected that Nosek will begin the season with the Red Wings’ AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids. But injuries always factor into NHL lineups and Nosek wants to put himself in a good position to get called up if he doesn’t make Detroit’s opening-night roster.
“I am very happy to be here so it’s a great chance to play for the Detroit Red Wings,” Nosek said. “I try to enjoy every game and I try to play my best. If I stay here it’s wonderful, it’s my dream. If not, I will try to play well in Grand Rapids and try to get back here.”
Nosek appeared in his first NHL preseason game Tuesday, in the Wings’ 2-1 overtime loss at Chicago. He was a minus-1 with two shots on goal and won 56 percent of his face-offs taken. On Thursday, he was a plus-2 with three SOG and won 50 percent of his draws.
Nosek was more comfortable playing in his second game against the Blackhawks, who left their offensive stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane back in Chicago.
“I’m used to the tempo,: Nosek said, “and I feel better than in Chicago.”
The start of Thursday’s contest was delayed by 45 minutes when the Blackhawks arrived late after experiencing mechanical problems with their airplane.
“We don’t really go through anything like that like baseball with the rain delays,” Abdelkader said. “Definitely not a fan of it, but I thought for the most part we did a good job staying ready. Both teams kind of came out slugglish but I think as the period went we got better.”
The Red Wings took a 1-0 lead late in the first period off a fortunate bounce in front of Blackhawks goalie Antti Raanta (21 saves). Forward Tomas Tatar was credited with the goal when the puck off of Ericsson’s backhand from the top of the right circle skipped off the ice and ricocheted of Tatar.
The Blackhawks scored their first goal when forward Bryan Bickell beat Jimmy Howard on a rebound at 6:28 of the final period. Howard played the entire game and made 26 saves.
Chicago made the end of the game interesting when they lifted backup Leighton (17 saves) for a sixth attacked. The move paid off for the Blackhawks when metro Detroit native Garret Ross scored with 50 seconds left in regulation.