DETROIT – Wings coach Mike Babcock made it abundantly clear after practice Saturday afternoon he wasn’t happy with his second and third forward lines in Friday’s loss to the Nashville Predators.
“I didn’t like (Pavel Datsyuk’s) line (Friday) night, I didn’t think it generated anything at all,” Babcock said. “The same with my third line, it didn’t generate a scoring chance. They’ve got to roll around and be physical and grind down low. We need an energy line that plays physical.”
With that said, Babcock practiced with Gustav Nyquist moved up on second line with Datsyuk and Johan Franzen, while Todd Bertuzzi played on the third line with Justin Abdelkader and Danny Cleary.
“I didn’t think we got through the middle of the ice enough,” Babcock said. “We had good scoring chances but in the end we didn’t make it hard enough on them. The only line that generated anything even-strength wise was (Henrik) Zetterberg’s line. We got two chances out of (Cory) Emmerton’s line but we didn’t get much out of the other groups. If we want to do that we got to get through the middle of the rink better.”
Nyquist, who played a few shifts with Datsyuk on Friday in the third period, showed signs of brilliance skating with Datsyuk and Bertuzzi while Franzen was sidelined with back spasms. He had a goal and three assists over a four-game stretch.
“I think it would boost anyone’s confidence to play with them,” Nyquist said. “They’re great players. I think I’ve had some good chemistry in the past with both Pav and Mule. It’ll be fun if that happens.”
During his four-game point streak, Nyquist averaged just over 14 minutes of ice time. Since Franzen’s return, his ice time has been cut in half and he’s been held off the scoresheet.
“All season down in Grand Rapids I have been playing a lot (of minutes) and the seasons before that,” Nyquist said. “I’m probably more used to playing more minutes so it’s definitely fun when I get that chance. When I’m on the fourth line I’m taking advantage of those minutes I get and trying to provide some energy. Either way it’s fun to be out there.
“You just have to take it one day at a time,” Nyquist added. “When I’m up here I just try and do my best every day and play as hard as I can and develop. I just try and do my part to help the team. I just come to the rink everyday happy I’m up here. Wherever they want to play me I’ll play.”
Babcock continues to be impressed with what Nyquist brings to the team.
“He’s a top-six type of player,” Babcock said. “He just hasn’t played a whole bunch. Can he be strong enough on the puck, can he be gritty enough against the best people? If you’re going to play with Pavel, that’s what you have to do. A big part of growth on that line is Pav needing some help from the Mule as well and as Mule gets in better game shape again, he’ll give him better help.”
Defenseman Kyle Quincey will be back in the lineup Saturday, but Babcock didn’t know what defenseman would sit.