DETROIT >> Sophomore slump?
Gustav Nyquist wants to hear none of that. The second-year NHL player scored his team-leading 12th goal on Tuesday in the Wings’ 4-3 loss to the Florida Panthers.
“It’s been going in,” Nyquist said. “I’ve been getting some good opportunities to play with great players in a lot of good situations, a lot of power-play time, so that helps. It’s nice to see the puck go in.”
Nyquist had a team-high 28 goals as a rookie last season despite playing in just 57 games.
“I think he’s just so good at getting the puck back and being in an open spot,” said Riley Sheahan, who’s centered the line Nyquist has been on the last few games. “He finds those open areas and then obviously he’s got a great shot. When the puck is on his stick, you kind of know that something good is going to happen.”
His 12 goals this year ranks him tied for sixth in the league heading into play Thursday.
“He’s a good player and he creates space,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s got good quickness, good intelligence. He plays hard.”
Seven of Nyquist’s goals this season have come on the power play, which ties him for the league lead with Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin. He’s ahead of the likes of these snipers – Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos and Washington’s Alex Ovechkin — who all have six power play goals heading into play Thursday.
“I think he finds places on the power play where he gets lost and players can’t get him,” Brendan Smith said. “And (Henrik) Zetterberg’s been able to find him several times. He’s got that knack for finding back doors and finding pucks. It’s like he’s in the right place at the right time. That’s what goal scorers do.
“I think even strength has become a little bit harder because teams have figured out hey, he’s a player, we’ve got to be watching for him. Everybody has that but something that Nyquist has is that he’s got that will and that competitive nature. When you have that, you’ll find a way to out-battle somebody and score goals.”
Zetterberg is on the first power play unit with Nyquist.
“I’ve been playing with Z a lot and he plays against good players most of the night,” Nyquist said. “It’s been fun. It’s a challenge to play against the best players and makes you become a better player. You learn a lot from that and it’s only a positive thing.”
Nyquist has 40 goals in 83 games since the start of last season.
“I’m in that spot in the middle where a lot of pucks come out, so if I’m in the right spot a lot of pucks are going to find me,” Nyquist said.
Nyquist credits the leadership of Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall and Pavel Datsyuk that helps him keep his drive.
“They bring it every day,” Nyquist said. “It’s a challenge in this league and us young guys we have to find a way to be able to do the same thing and bring it every day.”