DETROIT – In just his second career NHL game, Adam Almquist sported a smile that could be seen from miles away.
He had good reason to celebrate. The rookie defenseman had notched his first career NHL goal to give Detroit a 2-0 lead over Dallas on Nov. 7, 2013.
“I got a really, really good pass from (Henrik) Zetterberg,” Almquist said of his goal. “I walked into the slot and got it and shot it and luckily it went in.”
Unfortunately for Almquist, his accomplishment was achieved in a loss, as the Stars mounted a 4-3 comeback to hand the Red Wings their fourth straight loss at the Joe Louis Arena for the first time in four years. Almquist’s goal was a bright spot of the game, but there’s no doubt that he would’ve traded it for the W.
“I’m pretty sure he would exchange that for a win, but it’s fun to see him get rewarded,” Zetterberg said.
“That was (too bad) we couldn’t get the two points we wanted,” Almquist said. “It was a bitter end, bittersweet. We worked hard and deserved to win.”
The Wings recalled Almquist from the Grand Rapids Griffins on Nov. 4 after Brendan Smith sustained a slightly separated shoulder against the Edmonton Oilers. Almquist became Detroit’s third of nine prospects to make his NHL debut during the season, earning a minus-2 rating in a 4-2 loss at Winnipeg.
His first game at The Joe proved to be much more memorable.
“The first game is always the first game,” Almquist said. “I was a little bit nervous and stuff like that but I felt a little bit better tonight, a little bit more comfortable.”
Alongside teammates such as Zetterberg and Datsyuk, the defenseman understood the importance of watching and learning as much as he could from the veterans to continue his success.
“It’s always good to be around guys like that and I’m blessed to play here in this locker room right now,” Almquist said. “I try to do the best with it and I try to watch and learn from those guys.”
Although those two games would be the only two NHL contests Almquist appeared in last season, the defenseman’s willingness to work hard and compete with the league’s best didn’t go unnoticed.
“He’s a real good player with the puck and he’s a smart player without it,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “But he’s not a big guy, so you’ve got to be way better positionally than everyone else, because you’re not going to win any battles. You’ve got to learn how to box out early and deflect early so you don’t get into strength contests out there. I didn’t think he was a problem.”
Almquist finished the regular season second on the Griffins in scoring with four goals and 49 assists.
Last week, Almquist indicated that he might return to Sweden rather than player another AHL season with the Griffins.