DETROIT >> Just like their push to reach the playoffs last season, the Detroit Red Wings need an individual player to lead the way.
That player this season appears to be Gustav Nyquist, who’s taking over the torch from Henrik Zetterberg.
Nyquist has scored goals in each of the last five games, seven in total, to give him a team-leading 23 goals in 46 games.
“Right now he’s got a hot hand,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said in a phone interview Monday. “The pace he’s on right now is an incredible pace. He’s on a hot streak and we’re riding him. He’s one of the guys allowing us to stay in this race.”
Nyquist has been the NHL’s top marksman since Jan. 20, totaling 18 goals in 23 games.
“He’s scoring goals,” said linemate Tomas Tatar. “I hope he will just continue. We have lots of injuries, we need goals and it’s nice to see Gus finding the way to the net.
“He’s doing everything right right now, the puck is bouncing for him and he’s skilled enough to put it in,” Tatar continued. “He’s playing great. Sometimes the puck just finds you in the right spot and the right time. Gus is smart enough and he knows where to be, he’s really skilled, so he can finish.”
Nyquist, who was named the NHL’s first star of the week with a league-high six goals and seven points, has been a bright spot in a Wings lineup decimated by injuries to many stars including Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk.
Nyquist got caught in a numbers game at the start of the season and began the year in Grand Rapids where he spent the first month and a half of the season.
“I think confidence grows for every game that you’re up here, and right now, obviously, scoring a little bit it gives me more confidence with the puck,” Nyquist said.
He led the Griffins with seven goals and 14 assists in 15 games before being recalled on Nov. 20.
In his first game with the Wings he netted two goals against Carolina, playing on a line with Johan Franzen and Zetterberg.
He has since been moved to the Kid Line, replacing Tomas Jurco, to skate alongside Riley Sheahan and Tatar.
“I’ve been playing with great players so I’ve getting a lot of opportunities out there to shoot the puck in good areas and getting great passes,” Nyquist said. “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.”
Nyquist averages 2.7 shots a game this season.
“He’s getting good opportunities, but the other thing he’s doing is shooting the puck,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s got to continue to shoot the puck. In the National League you score by shooting, not by passing. So he’s done a good job in that area.”
He’s totaled 17 shots over the last five games.
“We’ve been talking about (shooting the puck more) all the time I’ve been here, really,” Nyquist said. “I’ve always been more of a passing player. I’m trying to shoot the puck more. I’m getting great passes, too. Try to get it on net.
“I think whoever’s in the lineup, I have to shoot more,” Nyquist added. “That’s how you create chances, too, getting rebounds for goals. All goals aren’t going to be pretty tic-tac-toe plays for an open net, you got to put the puck on net. A couple of my goals have gone off pretty good deflections from other team’s skates. So you just got to keep putting it on net.”
Nyquist, 24, has three multi-goal games, one less than Franzen.