Nosek: Wings promotion 'like a huge Christmas present'
Detroit -- This will top any Christmas present forward Tomas Nosek has ever received.
Nosek was called up from Grand Rapids after the Griffins game Saturday (their 14th consecutive win, incidentally) along with defenseman Xavier Ouellet after a minor rash of injuries hit the Red Wings.
"It's like a huge Christmas present," said Nosek, 23, who is getting his first taste of life in the NHL.
"I still can't believe it, that I'm here. I'm very excited."
As it turned out, Henrik Zetterberg (lower body) was in the lineup against the Flames while Jonathan Ericsson (upper body) was not.
Jakub Kindl replaced Ericsson, who saw his streak of playing in 114 consecutive games come to an end.
So Nosek and Ouellet were healthy scratches against Calgary. But that didn't dampen Nosek's enthusiasm, who has been waiting for this opportunity since signing as an undrafted free agent in 2014 out of the Czech Republic.
"I'm just trying to play well, do my best," said Nosek, who had two goals and five assists in 25 games in Grand Rapids.
At 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, Nosek has good size and his strength is on the defensive end, primarily as an NHL-caliber penalty killer.
Nosek projects to be a dependable two-way center, but right now, it's his ability to kill penalties and play a strong grinding game that impresses coach Jeff Blashill.
"With Nosek in particular, we thought if we inserted him in the lineup he could kill penalties (if needed)," Blashill said. "I felt fully confident he could execute the system we use here.
"When you're bringing up a player, you want them to fill a role and feel comfortable and confident in playing, especially in penalty killing. Nosek has been good at it for over a year. He can step in and play in the NHL today, especially as a penalty killer."
Nosek takes pride in his role, and isn't bothered by his lack of offense this season.
"I don't have so much points but my job is penalty killing and to be a good two-way player," Nosek said. "I try to do that. I just work hard and hope points will come."
Nosek said he had to adapt to the North American game.
"It's different, very different here," Nosek said. "It's so much faster than in Europe. The rink is smaller and there's a lot of battles and the speed. That's the biggest difference."
As for Ouellet, the ride over from Grand Rapids on I-96 is becoming old hat. One of the Red Wings' prime defensive prospects, the 22-year-old is simply waiting for a permanent stay at the NHL level.
He was close at the end of this training camp, but squeezed out again by too many veterans under contract.
"It's disappointing," said Ouellet of just missing out on an NHL job. "My goal has been to be here and making it officially (out of training camp), and it hasn't gone the way I've wanted it do.
"But at the end of the day I have to just keep going and that's what I tell myself. I went down and I've been performing pretty well, done a pretty good job, and I feel good about myself."
Ouellet has two goals and 10 assists this season with the Griffins.
"Certainly in our mind, he's solidified as the next guy to be called up based on his play throughout the times he's been in Detroit and his play in Grand Rapids," Blashill said. "That's not to say (Nick) Jensen is not capable, or (Ryan) Sproul (two Griffins defensive prospects). They are both capable, but X is first in that category."
Ouellet was planning on going back to Montreal for the American League holiday break, which began Sunday. But Ouellet didn't mind heading back to the NHL, if even for a short time.
"It feels good to be around the guys here and be around the room," Ouellet said. "I'll stay ready and if I get the opportunity, I'll be ready."
Room for improvement
The defensive pairing of Mike Green and Niklas Kronwall has provided stretches of the play expected of Blashill from the versatile veteran pair.
But not consistently enough.
Kronwall entered Sunday's game with a minus-7 rating and Green was at minus-6.
"At times it's been real good," said Blashill of the defensive pairing. "At times, it has room for improvement. It has more to do, not necessarily with the pairing as much as each individual making sure they've played at a real high level.
"But that's part of the season and it's part of your growth as a team and making sure guys are as consistent. When they're on, they're real good puck movers and play off each other well."
Petr Mrazek was to start for the Red Wings.
... Blashill said it's a positive step for forward Teemu Pulkkinen (shoulder) to have began skating on his own. Pulkkinen isn't likely to return until late January.
"The hardest part with injuries is keeping yourself in a spot where once you are healthy, you can play fairly quickly," Blashill said.