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Red Wings’ Gustav Nyquist returns to goal-scoring ways

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — There was much frustration last season on social media as Gustav Nyquist struggled to score goals and the Red Wings dropped in the standings.

Nyquist had scored 28 and 27 goals in his two most productive seasons. Last season he dropped to 12 goals.

Many Red Wings players caught fans’ aggravation, and Nyquist was just one.

It’s becoming a different story this season.

Nyquist’s two goals — including the 100th of his career — in Sunday’s 4-1 victory over Pittsburgh gave him 12 for this season.

“I don’t know, it’s a tough question to answer,” Nyquist said of what’s been the difference. “Last year I didn’t score as much as I would have liked and it’s hard to put a finger on it.

“Obviously it’s nice to see them go in right now.”

There should be one noted addition about last season: Nyquist had 36 assists, more like his game in college, at Maine, where he was a fine set-up man.

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“I don’t want to take anything away from him in the sense that he can score,” Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “I just thought he had kind of been of a 20 (goal)-40 (point), or 20-50 type of guy most of his career and all of a sudden he scored big time when he came into the league.

“I just wanted people to understand that when you’re judging him, don’t just judge him on the 29 goals. He might get 18 but have a lot of assists.

“He’s got lots of (offensive) chances. I don’t know if he’ll score nearly the amount in comparison to the chances. If he continues to do that, he’s going to have a great offensive year when it’s all said and done.”

Blashill has always taken note of Nyquist’s competitiveness on the ice and pointed to that as one of his strengths.

“Nyquist’s compete level has been excellent all season long, one of the best on our team in terms of a consistency basis,” Blashill said.

Captain leads

Henrik Zetterberg assisted on both of Nyquist’s goals, had a plus-2 rating in just over 19 minutes of ice time (19:04), and won 12-of-21 faceoffs.

Largely it was a normal evening for the Red Wings’ captain, an ordinarily good game against old rivals (the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin).

But Blashill made it a point to single out Zetterberg’s 200-foot game in his postgame remarks.

“Henrik Zetterberg was outstanding,” Blashill said. “There was no chance when he was on the ice that he was going to lose the battle. Whatever the battle was, he was going to win the shift.”

That will to compete and come out on top, Blashill said, makes Zetterberg one of the unique players in the NHL.

“That’s why Henrik’s been one of the best players in the league for a long time,” Blashill said.

“I don’t know if playing against the centers he played against (Sunday) spurred him a little extra but he was excellent.”

Home-ice advantage

The Red Wings have been calling Little Caesars Arena their home for several months.

The home record isn’t outstanding (8-6-6), crowds have been disappointing at times, and some fans seem more interested in the arena’s sports bars and restaurants than the actual hockey.

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But, slowly, fans and players are coming together and producing a bit of a home ice advantage.

Sunday’s victory was the third straight at LCA for the Red Wings, the longest such streak of the season.

“When the atmosphere is like that, the way it’s been here lately, it makes it fun to go out there and play and makes it a lot easier because we feed off that energy,” goaltender Jimmy Howard said.