Red Wings counting on Nyquist, Tatar to step up

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Traverse City — Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg have carried the Red Wings through several situations.

But they're not getting any younger.

Datsyuk is 37 and will miss the opener recovering from ankle surgery.

Zetterberg will be 35 on Opening Night, Oct. 9, and is coming off a slump-ridden second half.

Which forces the need for young players such as Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar to progress and take steps forward — beginning now.

"It's a challenge, but it's something me and Tats want to do eventually," said Nyquist, 26, who has shown to be a solid goal-scorer. "We've had great role models to look up to, the leadership — Pav and Hank lead and are everyday players and that's something both of us strive to be.

"That's another step hopefully we can move closer to this year and take on a bigger role."

The Red Wings showed their confidence in Nyquist in July when they re-signed the restricted free agent to a four-year contract worth $19 million.

Nyquist had 27 goals last season, behind only Tatar's 29.

"For the last number of years it's been Pav and Z," first-year coach Jeff Blashill said. "We need to make sure the next group of guys are ready to jump into those same roles and be those type of go-to guys.

"They've proven they were go-to guys in the American League. Now, let's make sure they can run a line instead of being a piece of it."

And how do they take that next step?

Nyquist believes maturation and familiarity — and NHL experience — takes care of that.

"I'm still young in this league but I'm getting up there, though (in terms of games played)," Nyquist said. "And looking at Pav and Hank and how they're everyday players and not having those ups and downs.

"If you do go through a drought scoring-wise, as an offensive player you want to bring something else and bring that work ethic every night and be there for the team in different situations. That's something I want to work on."