ANAHEIM, Calif. – Sporting a black eye, Gustav Nyquist is feeling fortunate after he received six stitches to close a cut over his left eye in Saturday’s season-final win at Dallas.
“It’s always scary when the stick gets up there, you don’t really realize that it goes numb at first and you don’t feel anything,” Nyquist said. “Obviously I’m happy that it didn’t catch my eye.”
Nyquist was hurt while battling Stars center Ryan Garbutt for a loose puck when his stick came up and caught the Wings’ forward under the protective visor that he wears.
“I wasn’t sure if my eye got hurt because I couldn’t really see with the bleeding down in my eye,” Nyquist said. “I was just relieved when I got off (the ice) that it didn’t hit my eye.”
Fortunately the injury won’t hinder Nyquist, who has become a stalwart on the Red Wings’ all-rookie third line with right wing Damien Brunner and center Joakim Andersson.
Nyquist, the former two-time Hobey Baker Award finalist as the best college player, has gained confidence in the NHL this season. He produced three goals and three assists in 23 games with the Red Wings this season.
Earlier this month, Nyquist was also named to the American Hockey League’s all-star first team, despite only playing 58 games in the minor league.
In the past, coach Mike Babcock has called Nyquist a top-six forward talent. A scoring machine at every level that he’s played, his role on the third line is a bit different as a fore-checker.
“Me and Brunner try to use our speed as much as possible, get the puck deep and work the D-men down low,” Nyquist said. “That's what all three of us are good at, and finding some soft spots in the middle for a shot. That's a big part of my game, to use my speed.”
Though he’s a rookie, Nyquist gained valuable playoff experience last spring, playing in four games in the five-game series won by the Nashville Predators.
“Last year I thought there was a difference from the 82-game season coming into the playoffs,” Nyquist said. “Everyone was flying, everyone was ready, everyone was banging their bodies around. It was tough hockey and I think it will be a little less of a difference this time around because it’s been playoff hockey for the last five or 10 games. We had to win four in a row to get into the playoffs, so it’s been like playoff hockey. Obviously it’s going to be a little different, but not like last year.”
As is the case with every playoff game, finding time in space against the Ducks’ big lineup will be limited, Nyquist said.
“It’s tight hockey and nobody wants to be the guy who makes the mistake to lead to an opportunity to the other team,” he said. “It will be a tight series all the way through. But this is when it’s fun to play hockey.”
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