Notes: Weiss, Cleary out, Nestrasil in for Wings’ season opener

Forward Andrej Nestrasil is making his NHL debut Thursday.

Rick Osentoski

During the entire preseason, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, stressed that whoever was playing "the best" would be in Detroi’st lineup, regardless of their age, name or contract status.

Babcock made good on that declaration by deciding to sit veteran forwards Stephen Weiss and Daniel Cleary in tonight’s season opener at Joe Louis Arena against the Boston Bruins.

"You put them on the ice; you’re going to watch them play. Whoever plays the best they get to play more," Babcock said after Thursday’s morning skate. "It doesn’t matter what their name is, so that’s what we’re going to figure out over time."

It’s apparent that Babcock likes the situation that the Wings find themselves in, not only are they a faster and younger team, but they also have depth, which is something that hasn’t always been the case.

"We’re really impressed with the development and depth of our group, when training camp came to an end there were too many guys for the number of chairs left, which is great," said Babcock.  "That wasn’t the case as much in the past. We didn’t have as much depth. We have two D and a goalie in the minors we think are ready to play.

"So I like that. We’re getting to be a deeper team. We didn’t have as many of the star power as we used to, but we have good depth and we’re hopeful those players are going to turn themselves into good players."           

One player that has played his way into the lineup, at least for now, is forward Andrej Nestrasil, who will be making his NHL debut Thursday.

Drafted in the third round by the Wings in 2009 NHL Entry Draft, the 23-year-old Nestrasil brings size (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) and skill to the Wings’ lineup.

In five preseason games, the Czech Republic native tallied twp goals, four total points and was a minus-1.

"I thought Nesty played well. We’re in a situation without Pavel (Datsyuk) that we need another body," Babcock said. "He played well and he earned his right to start today."

Nestrasil is expected to play on a line with Darren Helm and Gustav Nyquist and is looking forward to playing in his first NHL game.

"If you have asked anybody three years ago if I was going to play in the NHL they would all tell you 100 percent no," Nestrasil said. "I always hoped, deep down in the corner, that I would and the day’s here and I’m really happy for it."

NYQUIST EAGER FOR SEASON TO START

At this time last year, Gustav Nyquist, may have been the most disappointed player in the Red Wings’ organization.

That’s because he was sent down to Grand Rapids, even though he played well enough to make the Wings’ roster. But because Nyquist didn’t have to clear waivers, he was caught in a numbers game and shipped out of town.

When he eventually arrived in Detroit, he established himself as a consistent goal scorer and led the Wings with 28 goals last year in 57 games and was tied for second in scoring with 48 points.

With expectations being high for him this year, Nyquist realizes that he’ll be a marked man out on the ice, but he tries not to think too much about his reputation as a goal scorer.

As a matter of fact, he’s just happy that he’s on the verge of beginning his first full season in the NHL.

"It’s just exciting, I’m just excited that it’s finally my first full year in the NHL and that’s something I think everyone works hard for," Nyquist said. "Obviously it feels great to make the team from the start this year and be up here from the start.

Nyquist is also encouraged by what Detroit’s youngsters accomplished last season and thinks it was just the beginning for the Wings’ youthful core.

"Some of the guys here (including him) won’t come up as unknown as they were last year and that means the teams are going to be more aware of us younger guys out there," Nyquist said. "But that’s only going to make us better I think and force us to take our game to the next level."

ERICSSON: IF WE’RE HEALTHY, WE’RE DANGEROUS

Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson was injured for a significant portion of last season, playing in only 48 games.

But he doesn’t want to dwell on the past, especially last year when the Wings lost an almost unheard of 421-man games to injury.

"I’m really looking forward to this season. Hopefully we can stay somewhat healthy and not be in the top three teams in man games lost," Ericsson said. "If this team can be healthy, I’m really curious to see what we can do.

"If we have most of the guys healthy throughout the year, I really like what we have got. The young guys really grew a lot last year and they’re going to keep growing.

"I really like our chances. I wouldn’t trade our team for any other team."

As they say, hope always springs eternal at the start of the year.

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