DETROIT - The secret is out.
After leading the league with 18 goals in 23 games since Jan. 20 and recording seven points (6-1-7) in Detroit’s last four games, helping the club ascend into the No. 1 wild-card spot in the playoff standings, forward Gustav Nyquist earned top honors in the NHL’s Three Stars of the Week.
“I’ve been playing with great player so I’ve getting a lot of opportunities out there to shoot the puck in good areas and getting great passes,” Nyquist said following Detroit’s 3-2 overtime loss to Minnesota Sunday night, in which he netted two goals. “So that’s the reason behind it and obviously I’m getting good deflections too. I’ve had some good bounces for some goals, so that’s fun to see.”
The forward leads the Red Wings with 23 goals, tying his single-season total at any level that was set during the 2012-13 season in Grand Rapids. Nyquist has earned at least one goal in each of Detroit’s last five games, and the Wings are 14-1-3 when the 24-year-old has found the back of the net this season.
“He’s scoring goals, that’s great for our team,” said linemate Tomas Tatar. “I hope he will just continue. We have lots of injuries, we need goals, it’s nice to see Gus finding the way to the net.”
With injuries to top players captain Henrik Zetterberg and center Pavel Datsyuk, Nyquist has taken advantage of every opportunity to score during the last quarter of the season. Before Feb. 26, the forward averaged just 2.55 shots per game, but in the 13 games since then, has averaged 3.23 shots per game.
Nyquist’s continual contributions have helped keep an injury-ridden Wings team in the playoff hunt, a welcoming sight for a player who didn’t make the club’s roster at the beginning of the season. The Halmstad, Sweden native was a victim of Detroit’s salary cap in September, and played for the team’s minor-league affiliate in Grand Rapids until he was recalled on Nov. 21.
Nyquist didn’t waste any time proving he deserved a permanent spot on the Wings’ roster, scoring his first goal just 17 seconds into his NHL season debut. But the forward knows a lot of his success must be credited to his development within the Griffins’ system in the American Hockey League.
“You can learn a lot from that, the way we played down there,” Nyquist said. “We play the way we do up here and it’s a great league to develop in and to learn the pro game. You play just as many games, getting your body used to that. It’s a good league.”
Although Nyquist has applied much of what he learned in Grand Rapids to his NHL game, the forward strives to continue sharpening his skills every time he steps on the ice.
“I just think that’s something that you try to develop every day, just by working hard in practice and improve on the small things,” Nyquist said.
In the past week, Nyquist has helped Detroit earn seven out of eight points in four games with victories over Toronto, Pittsburgh and Minnesota, and an overtime loss to the Wild. The Wings now sit in the No. 1 wild-card spot ahead of Toronto and Columbus with 80 points.
New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and Boston Bruins forward Jarome Iginla were named second and third stars, respectively.
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