LARRY LAGE, AP Hockey Writer
DETROIT (AP) — Gustav Nyquist is in impressive company.
The Detroit Red Wings forward has scored 23 goals in 28 games after having just 63 NHL games of experience.
“I don’t know how many players in the history of the game have done that,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said.
Not many: Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin and former NHL star Pavel Bure are the only two other players who have pulled off that feat since the 1989-90 season, according to STATS. Nyquist said the only thing that matters to him is helping the Red Wings make the playoffs.
Thanks to the Swede’s breakout performance after starting the season in the minors, the short-handed team has a good chance to extend its postseason streak to 23.
Nyquist was the last player the Red Wings cut from their NHL roster entering the season, sending him to play for the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins after he scored four times in 40 games the previous two years.
It didn’t seem like a big snub at the time.
Nyquist was caught in a numbers crunch on a team that couldn’t put Tomas Tatar on waivers and was counting on newcomers Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss to join returning forwards such as Mikael Samuelsson, Todd Bertuzzi, Daniel Cleary, Darren Helm and Patrick Eaves.
Nyquist got the relatively bad news last fall.
“They just said the facts that I was going down, play hard and you’ll get your chance,” Nyquist recalled earlier week. “I said I was going to be ready when I got a chance. And, it finally came.”
Nyquist has made the most of it, helping a banged-up and offensively challenged team stay competitive and recently surge into a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with six games left in its regular season.
He scored twice in his first NHL game this season on Nov. 21, a 4-3 win over Carolina.
Nyquist scored nine times in a nine-game stretch just before the Olympic break, earning a spot on Sweden’s team at the Sochi Games to replace injured Red Wings teammate Johan Franzen.
“The experience of playing with and against the best players in the world in Russia has only added to his confidence,” Holland said.
He had the game-winning goal in Wednesday night’s comeback win over the NHL-leading Boston Bruins, blowing past star defenseman Zdeno Chara after getting to a turnover near Detroit’s blue line and racing the puck up the ice.
Nyquist has scored 12 times in his last 10 games — the most by any player this season in a 10-game stretch — and has a league-high 23 goals since Jan. 20.
Suddenly, he’s a big part of opponents’ scouting report and they still can’t seem to slow him down.
“When a guy is that hot, you want to be aware of him and finish when you can on him,” Bruins forward Brad Marchand said. “You have to know where he is because he’s a very skilled player with a lot of speed. He’s a threat, for sure.”
Nyquist, though, insists he doesn’t know what all the fuss is about.
The 24-year-old humble guy politely answers every question asked of him — and there seem to be more reporters wanting some of his time every day — but he won’t buy into the hype.
“You guys are making a bigger deal out of it than I am,” Nyquist said with a shrug. “The only thing that matters is to get in the playoffs.”
Red Wings forward Luke Glendenning, whose locker stall is next to Nyquist’s in Detroit and was his roommate last season in Grand Rapids, said the team hasn’t had to keep Nyquist’s ego in check because he takes care of that himself.
“He’s been great about all of this,” Glendenning said before a swarm of reporters engulfed Nyquist. “He is keeping his humble attitude and the great work ethic that got him here.”
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