DETROIT – When Detroit recalled Gustav Nyquist from Grand Rapids in November, he made it impossible for the club to send him back to the AHL, as the young forward played his way onto the roster by recording five points through his first five games.
Now, Nyquist is making another strong case for a different roster, as Sweden searches for a replacement on its Olympic team for Johan Franzen, who will not make the trip to Sochi due to lingering concussion-like symptoms.
Nyquist scored his fifth goal in the past six games in Detroit’s 4-3 shootout victory over Washington Friday night, no doubt playing some of his best hockey while all eyes in Sweden are searching for Franzen’s replacement.
“That would be an unbelievable experience, to be able to go to the Olympics,” Nyquist said. “It doesn’t come around too often, so it would be an incredible experience, obviously. It wouldn’t be the way you’d want to get in, seeing one of your teammates hurt, not being able to go. I know Johan would have loved to go, but the situation is what it is. Obviously, I’d be more than happy to go."
Swedish officials are also keeping close eyes on Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg and Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin, who have suffered recent injuries that could potentially hinder their chances of participating in the Sochi Games. Sedin has missed the Canucks’ past five games with sore ribs, while Zetterberg was absent from Detroit’s last two contests with an injury that caused him to miss 11 games in December.
Although Nyquist would be honored to have the opportunity to represent his country, he doesn’t expect to hear an official decision on Sweden’s roster for a couple more days.
“I’m assuming within the next few days here, the guy who’s going probably needs to get their travel itinerary sorted out,” Nyquist said.
The forward already has plans to vacation somewhere warm during the Olympic break, but would be more than happy to adjust his plans if he received an invitation to join nine of his teammates in Sochi.
“It’s not something where if you have travel plans, a trip booked or something like that, you wouldn’t be too sad to leave that behind and go to the Olympics,” Nyquist said.
For now, though, Nyquist is focusing on finishing strong during Detroit’s final four games leading up to the Olympics.
“Right now we’re just focusing on finishing on a good note here before the Olympic break and getting as many wins as possible,” Nyquist said.
Forward Drew Miller and defenseman Danny DeKeyser also notched goals in regulation for the Red Wings in the shootout victory, helping Detroit to a 3-2 lead until Alex Ovechkin’s goal with seven seconds left in the game sent the contest into overtime and an eventual shootout.
Through seven rounds of the shootout, Patrick Eaves scored the lone goal between the two teams, earning Detroit two critical points as the club moved into the last Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference behind 59 points.
“We did a lot of great things,” Eaves said. “Howie was a rock star. We needed to get those two points for him and ourselves. When they had a PK late in the third he stopped some big time shots. I’m happy he was on our side.
“Any points here are huge for us. We have to make a push towards the Olympic break and hopefully start hot out of it.”
Goalie - DET
GAA: 2.65 | Sv%: .916
Goaltender Jimmy Howard
stopped 26 of 29 shots, as well as all seven shots in the shootout, in his first game back since reinjuring his knee against St. Louis on Jan. 20.
“I felt surprisingly good, I didn’t have any issues at all with the knee, which I think is a great sign because I came back last time and still felt it every once in a while,” Howard said. “But didn’t feel it at all tonight so I think that’s a great sign moving forward.”
Since falling to a 6-10-7 record at The Joe, Detroit is now 4-1-1 in its past six home games, and coach Mike Babcock gives a lot of credit for that recent success to his goaltender.
"We got Howie back so that's one of the big keys,” Babcock said. “Ever since the Winter Classic, Howie's been like Howie is so he's capable of doing good things for you. He can hold you in, he made huge saves on the penalty kill late, they had good chances and he made great saves. That's a big part of it."
The victory also marked Detroit’s 3,000th home game in franchise history. Since 1979, 1,324 of those games have been played at Joe Louis Arena, where the Wings currently hold a 760-392-119-53 record.
Follow Andrea Nelson on Twitter @Nelson_Andrea