Babcock second-guesses choice to not play Nyquist

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — Red Wings coach Mike Babcock played the part of reporter after Thursday's practice, questioning himself.

Why was Gustav Nyquist not on the ice when the Red Wings had a four-on-three power play in the final 40 seconds of Wednesday's overtime? The game ended in a 3-2 shootout loss to Boston.

Why wouldn't Nyquist, who tied the game in the third period with a power-play goal and has three goals in three games, be on the ice?

Babcock's reasoning: Nyquist hasn't worked with the four-on-three unit during practice and Babcock and his staff were comfortable with Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Riley Sheahan and Niklas Kronwall on the ice.

That's not to say Babcock didn't second-guess himself.

"It drove me crazy I did that, even though we worked with those other guys," Babcock said. "How was I dumb enough to let that happen? We even talked about it (on the bench), and I still did it.

"It was dumb. Why did I do that? Why have the hottest scorer on the bench?"

Nyquist, who is on the second four-on-three power play unit, had no problems with not being on the ice in overtime.

"You put your top players out there, and they created two really good chances," said Nyquist, noting Franzen's shot just glanced off Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask's blocker.

Toronto bound

Playing back-to-back games with Toronto harkens goalie Jimmy Howard back to his college hockey days.

"Going on the road and playing against the same team two nights in a row, it'll be fun, obviously," said Howard, who played at Maine. "Here, the fans will be split pretty much 50-50. It'll be a good weekend, a good test."

The Red Wings are in Toronto on Friday and return to Joe Louis Arena on Saturday to face the Maple Leafs.

For defenseman Brendan Smith, it's an opportunity to go back home and play in front of family and friends.

"With the HBO and 24/7 (series), and the Winter Classic, that all put so much emphasis (on the rivalry)," Smith said. "It was way more of a rivalry back in the day, it was huge.

"Maybe it's brewing again with what is going on, and it's pretty cool."

Puck possession

The Red Wings must have more control of the puck than they did against the Bruins.

The Bruins had a 32-29 edge in faceoff wins but had a big advantage early, which set the tone for the game.

Boston gained entry into the Red Wings' zone and controlled the puck down low. The Red Wings finally got possession and dumped the puck into Boston's zone to make a line change, and the Bruins again had easy entry.

"The sequence of events doesn't change all night," Babcock said. "They won the races and the battles."

Unlike the season opener, when the Red Wings looked like the quicker and faster team because of their ability to hold onto the puck, the Bruins were that team Wednesday.

"It was one of those games where they did what we wanted to do to them," Howard said. "They made it hard on myself and the defense to move the puck. We played on the defensive side of the puck a lot and that's why we couldn't generate any offense.

"We got the puck to the neutral zone, dumped it in to change, and we couldn't sustain any pressure."

Ice chips

Justin Abdelkader sat out Thursday's practice with what he and the team called a "maintenance day." Abdelkader felt he was going to be ready to play Friday.

…Thursday's game was the 100th of Nyquist's career. His 35 goals are only second to Slava Kozlov's 37 in that span of games among Red Wings.

…Goalie Jonas Gustavsson is likely to get the start Saturday, which would be his first start of the regular season.

Preview: Red Wings at Maple Leafs

Time: 7:30 p.m..

TV/radio: FSD/97.1

Records: Red Wings 1-1-1, 3 points; Maple Leafs 2-2-0, 4 points.

Notes: The first of a weekend back-to-back series… The Red Wings have the league's best penalty kill (100 percent) and Toronto has the eighth-best power play (29.4 percent)… C Tyler Bozek (six points) and RW Phil Kessel (five points) are off to good starts.