|Rookie Teemu Pulkkinen has played in six games for the Red Wings this season. He collected his first NHL goal in his last game, a 5-4 win over Minnesota on Jan. 20. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings) |
DETROIT – Looking to generate more offense lately, the Red Wings dipped into their minor-league system Tuesday, recalling the American Hockey League’s leading scorer.
Finnish sniper Teemu Pulkkinen is enjoying another amazing minor-league season, but he’ll need to step up his game if he’s going to win a long-term spot on the Wings’ roster.
“He just keeps going,” coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s a machine-like scorer. That’s going to translate at some point. Is it this time? I don’t know.”
On Monday, the 23-year-old forward became the first player in Grand Rapids history to record back-to-back 30 goal seasons when he scored in the Griffins’ 5-1 win at Chicago. His goals and 57 points through 44 games lead the AHL.
“We won some games and the team is playing really good right now in Grand Rapids,” Pulkkinen said. “We had some hard times there but right now the team is doing good. So it’s easier as a player to play good when the team is playing good as well.”
Pulkkinen leads the Griffins in several categories, including power-play goals (10) and shots on goal (178). He finished last season with 31 goals and 59 points in 71 regular-season games for Grand Rapids.
The 5-foot-10 Pulkkinen represents the second wave of young offensive talent in the Wings’ organization, behind Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and Tomas Jurco, who have found a permanent home in Detroit.
But Pulkkinen did little with his first opportunity with the Wings this season.
“I saw a kid that was a little bit nervous,” Babcock said. “That’s why we sent him back down. He’s got an absolute bomb of a shot. He’s tenacious. He’s on the puck. He’s strong. The NHL today there’s no room. We have to find ways to generate offense in no space. You have to create your own space. Being strong on your feet, being able to leverage your body is so important and he does those things.”
Now, Pulkkinen gets another shot at showing what he can do in the NHL.
“He’s shown he’s very, very good in the American Hockey League,” Babcock said. “You’re always looking for goals. We’re always looking to improve our roster. If he can help us, he’s got to take someone’s job, just like everyone else. We have lots of guys coming up, some stay and some don’t. We think Pulkky is a real good player. … Let’s give him an opportunity to be a real good player.”
Pulkkinen, who made his NHL debut last season, was recalled last month and played six games for Jurco who was out with back spasms. Pulkkinen also collected his first career goal in that first stint, blasting a shot that beat Minnesota goalie Devin Dubnyk in Detroit’s 5-4 shootout win Jan. 20.
Following the game, the Wings returned Pulkkinen to Grand Rapids to make room for Jurco, but the Finn didn’t sulk. In fact, since being reassigned, he produced 10 goals – including two game-winners – and 18 points on 53 shots in 11 games played with the Griffins.
“As a player, everybody wants to play in the NHL but it’s hard,” he said. “There’s 20-25 good players so I just played my best and they put me there. I was excited to play hockey. It’s better to play hockey than to sit. It was good to go (to Grand Rapids) and get some confidence again and I’m happy to be back and I want to play as good as I can and try to hold a spot.”
Pulkkinen practiced with the Red Wings on Tuesday afternoon before the team headed to Chicago, where they will face the Blackhawks Wednesday night. Pulkkinen skated on a line with center Henrik Zetterberg and forward Justin Abdelkader.
“I just want to improve my game and play better every game so I’m excited to get the second chance,” Pulkkinen said, “and just kind of enjoy the game and try to help the team as much as I can.”
QUINCEY EQUALS MARK
Defense - DET
Goals: 3 | Assists: 10 | Pts: 13
Shots: 73 | +/-: 5
: Kyle Quincey
registered seven shots on goal in Monday’s 2-0 loss to Montreal. That’s 28 percent of the rubber that the Wings’ shooters sent toward Canadiens goalie Carey Price.
The shot total equals Quincey’s personal best, which he set against Carolina on March 24, 2012.
“I think that’s something that he’s done really well for us ever since he came back here from Colorado,” Niklas Kronwall said. “He finds a way to get it through. He finds a lane and he’s got a cannon. He does a great job.”
The Wings’ defenseman said he was just taking advantage of the Canadiens’ game plan.
“We had the puck a lot in their zone last night, which shows why I got all of those shots,” said Quincey, who leads all team defensemen with 73 shots this season. “The forwards in their zone have to decide to shrink down on our forwards or stay high on us. They can’t do both, so if they go down then we have room up top.”
FIRST TIME AT THE JOE: The Canadiens’ Price recorded his 30th career shutout Monday, stopping all 25 shots to move past Patrick Roy into sole possession of fifth place in franchise history.
Price also became the first Canadiens’ goaltender to earn a shutout at Joe Louis Arena. The last Montreal goaltender to earn a shutout in Detroit was Michel Larocque, who did so at Olympia Stadium on March 27, 1977.
“(Price) was big,” Kronwall said. “It was hard for our forwards to get to the net and when he did have guys in front of him he’d find a way to make the save anyway. Numbers don’t lie. He’s the best goalie in this league it seems like.”