DETROIT — The Detroit Red Wings will look a little different when they take the ice in Calgary on Wednesday night.
The Wings recalled Gustav Nyquist from the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League and sent Tomas Tatar back to Grand Rapids.
“I think (Valtteri) Filppula’s back in, so suddenly there’s no power-play time for Tatar,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “So you got to give Tats a ton of credit, he came up for one game — how many games did he get to play? So he earned himself 17 (more) games. Now we’ll give Gus an opportunity, and we’ll see what Gus can earn himself.”
Nyquist, who had two previous call-ups this season of one game each, is the current AHL scoring leader with 23 goals and 37 assists in 57 games.
In practice Tuesday, Nyquist was on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen.
“If that’s the case for the game, then it’s going to be a great opportunity for me with all of those great players,” Nyquist said. “It’s really exciting to be playing with guys like that. I’m just going to try and make the best out of it.”
Tatar had four goals and three assists and was plus-2 in 18 games with the Wings. Babcock said they weren’t sending him down because they were displeased with him.
“I thought he played good and he did good things,” Babcock said. “The only thing is if suddenly you’re not on the power play, where’s he getting his touches? ‘Cause Filppula is gonna do that. So we don’t perceive him as ahead of Fil. Any way we look at it, that’s less ice time for him, less opportunities. So we’ve made that flip.”
Nyquist said he never allowed himself to get frustrated with the fact that he was still in the AHL while his former linemates Tatar and Joakim Andersson were with the Wings.
“You can’t think about it too much,” Nyquist said. “You have to focus on working hard down there and showing them that you want to be up there. But at the same time, the guys that have gotten the chance so far — I mean, Andy, Tats and Smitty (Brendan Smith) and Lash (Brian Lashoff) on the D-side — have done a great job. They’ve really shown that they can play up here too.”
As for Filppula, who has missed seven games because of a shoulder injury, he skated with Henrik Zetterberg and Damien Brunner in practice. He said he had to talk to trainer Piet Van Zant before he knew for sure whether he is going to play.
“(Tuesday) it felt the best that it has,” Filppula said. “Great shooting. Obviously, you don’t get a lot of battles in practice, so I don’t know if the game is the time to test it out. But other than that, I felt pretty good.”
Goaltender Jimmy Howard said the team welcomed Filppula’s return, whenever that might be.
“It’s good,” Howard said. “He’s one of our leaders out there, we look for him to get points for us. He’s one more piece to add up front where the other team has to respect him.”
Important trip for Wings
The Wings know they have a lot to prove on the road, where they are 3-5-2 and have yet to record a power-play goal in 36 chances.
“It’s just paying attention to detail out there, like we do at home,” Howard said, “not trying to be too fancy or getting frustrated when something doesn’t go right on the road, just stick to the game plan and trust in our systems.”
Babcock brought up the fact the Wings have the ninth-best power play at home and the worst on the road.
“We need it for two reasons. One, obviously we need the goals, but, two, when your offensive people are scoring on the power play, it puffs them up and they’re that much better all around,” Babcock said. “Guys who score want to score. We have to put our work as a coaching staff and as a group of players into being effective on the power play.”
Howard can’t help the power play, but he does observe it from the other end of the ice.
“Definitely with our skill, the five guys that we can put out there, it’s kind of mindboggling how we haven’t (scored any goals),” he said. “But we really can’t think about it. We just have to go out there and pound pucks on net and, hopefully, one goes in off the shin pads.”
After facing Calgary on Wednesday, the Wings visit Edmonton on Friday and Vancouver on Saturday.
Helm joining team on trip
Darren Helm, who has been limited to one game this season because of a back injury, will join the team on the trip, although he is not expected to play yet.
“I’m skating with the team now,” Helm said. “Skated last week. I felt pretty good. There are still a few things I want to overcome, strengthening it, I really don’t want to feel any pain after skates, the next morning. It feels good, but there are still a few things I need to do.”
Tuesday’s practice was the first time Helm had skated with his teammates in more than five weeks.
Helm said he and the team do have a goal in mind for his return.
“A couple weeks ago we kind of said (March) 20 against Minny, not positive how close we were going to be to that,” Helm said. “I want to make sure there are no issues with that, with my mind. I want to make sure when I’m out there that’s the furthest thing from my thoughts. I want to be as healthy as I can before I get back out there and not a thought in my mind about it.”