Teemu Pulkkinen scores first NHL goal in win over Wild

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
From left, Brendan Smith, Teemu Pulkkinen and Joakim Andersson celebrate after Pulkkinen's goal in the first period.

Detroit —Teemu Pulkkinen does have that hard shot everybody was raving about — no doubt about that.

But in his first five games since Pulkkinen was called up by the Red Wings from Grand Rapids, it's been a whole other thing attempting to convert those shots into goals.

Pulkkinen finally found some room in the first period Tuesday, in the Red Wings' 5-4 shootout victory over Minnesota.

Pulkkinen received a nice drop pass from Stephen Weiss and showed off that big shot, blasting a goal past Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk at 9:09 of the first period — Pulkkinen's first career NHL goal.

"Weisser made a real nice pass and I just tried to one-touch it and I got lucky," Pulkkinen said.

Finding open space has been difficult in the NHL, but Pulkkinen finally found some on the goal.

"It's been hard to find the open spots," Pulkkinen said. "I found a good lane and Weisser made a good pass and I wanted to shoot the puck."

NHL players are also older and experienced, and understand how to take away a player with a big shot such as Pulkkinen, and he's realized that quickly.

"The players here are better, they have a long stick, and they know where to go on the ice," said Pulkkinen, who has been credited with 10 shots in six games.

One thing Pulkkinen isn't doing is pressing, or forcing himself to score a goal and break out of this scoreless stretch.

"When you try harder to score, you never score," Pulkkinen said. "So you just have to keep going and keep calm and relaxed and play the way you always play.

"When you start pushing it too fast, it's not going to be good. I just play. Of course I want to score, but it's not easy. But it will come."

Coach Mike Babcock said after Tuesday's game Pulkkinen will be sent to Grand Rapids for the All-Star break and be eligible to play in the American League All-Star Game.

"He has some things to learn," Babcock said. "(But) he has a dimension of shooting the puck and being tenacious and he should be able to play in the NHL. He just has to fix some things."

Progressing well

Injured players Tomas Jurco (back), Jakub Kindl (elbow) and Jonas Gustavsson (shoulder) all took part in the morning skate.

Jurco has been out since Jan. 7, but should be ready soon after the All-Star break.

"There's huge progress (since Day 1)," Jurco said. "Day 1, I really couldn't move. Right now I'm skating. So, that's way better. But it's not 100 percent ready yet. So, we'll see."

Jurco said he's been treating the back ailment with medication, some rehabilitation treatment and working out in the weight room.

"My back has been bothering me for a few months," Jurco said. "I was still feeling it during the games. In Edmonton (Jan. 6), after the second period, it just started being really, really sore. I had to get out of the game."

Kindl is hoping to be cleared after the break.

"I hope so, I'm anxious," Kindl said. "I'm feeling better every day."

Ouellet rests

While Pulkkinen will go to Grand Rapids, Babcock said after Tuesday's victory defenseman Xavier Ouellet will remain on the Red Wings roster.

Babcock said Ouellet has a sore wrist and will get the opportunity to rest, instead of playing in the AHL All-Star Game, for which Ouellet was selected.

Ouellet scored his second goal in the NHL during Tuesday's victory, and was plus-2 in 15 minutes, 53 seconds of ice time. He was credited with one hit and one giveaway.