DETROIT – The Grand Rapids contingent was just what the doctor ordered for the injury-decimated Red Wings on Friday at Joe Lois Arena.
Though the high-flying Anaheim Ducks used a four-goal third period to hand Detroit a 5-2 loss, three rookies added significant energy for the Wings, who took in another patient to their M*A*S*H unit before the game.
Without Pavel Datsyuk, the Wings’ top two forward lines struggled offensively against the Ducks, registering 11 of the team’s 28 shots, while rookies Joakim Andersson and Tomas Tatar accounted for Detroit’s goals.
“In the perfect world, everyone would be healthy and you have the chemistry with the guys you're used to playing,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “But that’s not the case.”
After the game, coach Mike Babcock said that Datsyuk has a “bruised shoulder” and is expected to be day-to-day. His status for the Wings’ next game – at Minnesota on Sunday night – is not known. The Wings are still without the services of forwards Mikael Samuelsson (groin), and Darren Helm and Todd Bertuzzi, both nursing bad backs.
However, it was nice to see an infusion of youth in the Wings’ lineup with Andersson, Tatar and Gustav Nyquist giving a spark against the Ducks, who are now 10-2-1 on the season.
Andersson opened the scoring for the Red Wings with his first career NHL point, a goal at 3:01, which was set up by defenseman Jakub Kindl and Tatar. It was a pretty goal for the Swedish centerman, who dropped to a knee to lift a shot over the out-stretched catching glove of his countryman, Ducks goalie Viktor Fasth.
“When I played in my first NHL game it was a big, exciting time, that’s for sure,” said Andersson, who has now played in nine NHL games. “The first goal would be a lot more fun if we had won the game. But it was nice to get it out of the way.”
Andersson, who is the 591st player in franchise history to register a goal while wearing the winged wheel sweater, admitted to having some nerves once Kindl delivered the pass to him in the right circle.
“I saw that there was a lot of net open there and I thought Kindl made a nice play there,” Andersson said. “I don’t think that Fasth, in the net, was ready for that play. He gave me, basically, an open net there, so it was nice to see it go in.”
Andersson, who has shown tremendous leadership skills over the last two seasons as an alternate captain for the Griffins, had 10 goals and 17 assists in 36 AHL games before his call-up.
The Griffins’ trio has been very effective in the minor-leagues as they have been together for most of the season as a forward line that has produced a combined 46 goals. They even had a chance to work together on the Wings’ second power-play unit where they produced the only power-play goal of Friday’s game.
“I think we had some good PP shifts as well there,” Andersson said. “We’ve been doing pretty well together down in Grand Rapids with our PP line with Nyquist and Tatar, so we know what we’re doing there. Well, we had one goal and we had a couple of other chances, so it was all too bad.”
Tatar scored on the power play, picking up a rebound off of Damien Brunner’s shot, and buried it past Fisth, which gave the Red Wings a 2-1 lead at 6:32 of the second period.
It was Tatar’s second goal in as many games, which delighted Babcock.
“I thought it was really good and really competitive,” Babcock said. “To me (Cory) Emmerton’s line was excellent. Andersson’s line was excellent and Z’s line was playing against (Ryan) Getzlaf’s line and so they were pretty good.”
Nyquist was recalled from Grand Rapids earlier in the day. The 23-year-old Swede leads the Griffins, and is tied for fourth in AHL-scoring with 45 points. He has 17 goals and 28 assists in 47 games. This is the second stint with the Red Wings this season. He played in the team’s home opener on Jan. 22.
Despite the loss, Jimmy Howard said it was nice to see the effectiveness that the rookie trio brought to the team.
“It’s great to see. We’re going to need them to step up over the next little while here until guys get healthy,” the Wings’ goalie said. “We’re going to need them to step up like that and it was great to see them get on the score sheet.”
NOTEBOOK: Defenseman Kyle Quincey was a plus-1 Friday night, giving him a team-high plus-7 rating in 14 games. Before Friday’s game, Quincey was just one of four players in the NHL to have a plus-1 or better without registering a point.
The other three were Adam McQuaid of Boston, Mike Komisarek of Toronto and Eric Tangradi of Pittsburgh. The Eastern Conference trio was a plus-2 each.
THREE STARS: 3, Tomas Tatar, DET (1 Goal, 1 Assist); 2, Teemu Selanne, ANA (1 Assist); 1, Bobby Ryan, ANA (1 Goal).
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