With Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard out 2-4 weeks with a groin injury, he will not be able to play in the All-Star game. Another goalie will be needed to replace Howard, but unfortunately, there is no rule stating all 30 teams must have a representative if injuries arise. Howard was the lone representative from the Red Wings.
However, Detroit has a number of worthy candidates, and if given the opportunity, which one should represent the winged wheel in Columbus?
Pavel Datsyuk missed the first five games of the season with a shoulder injury and a few games later on with a groin injury, but The Magic Man has been as magical as ever.
He has 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists) in 32 games and shows no signs of slowing down despite being 36 years old. Just when you think age is going to catch up to Datsyuk, he proves everyone wrong.
Not only does he continue to force turnovers (25) and win faceoffs (55.2 percent) like he always has done, but he’s shooting the puck more than he has in the past couple of seasons.
Through 43 games, he has 86 shots on goal, which is an average of 2.7 shots per game. He’s on pace to have 221 shots, which would be the highest amount he has had since the 2008-09 season, the last time the Red Wings reached the Stanley Cup final.
Datsyuk is a four-time All-Star (2004, 2008, 2009, 2012).
The Captain had serious health issues last season. He had to withdraw from the Olympics in Sochi because of severe back pain, and he played in just two games after the Olympic break. He had multiple surgeries in hopes of fixing the issue, and so far, it seems to have worked.
Zetterberg has played in all 43 games for the Red Wings, one of nine players to accomplish that feat this season. He leads the team in scoring with 36 points (10 goals, 26 assists) and shooting with 137 shots. He also leads all forwards on the team in average time on ice at 19:28.
At 34, Zetterberg continues to produce offensively for Detroit while seeing the other team’s best players. He’s so good at shielding the puck away from opposing defenders to give his teammates a chance to get open or to create space for himself to get a shot off.
Zetterberg is a two-time All-Star (2007, 2008).
We saw how good Nyquist was last year, when he scored two goals in his season debut against the Carolina Hurricanes after he finally got the callup to the NHL. Nyquist has had stretches of inactivity this season, but he also is in just his first full season of his career.
In 43 games, he has 30 points (16 goals, 14 assists) and leads the team in power-play goals with nine. The similarities to Zetterberg are beginning to form for the 25-year-old, and not just because they both hail from Sweden.
As you can see in the above video, Nyquist does an excellent job of using his strength to protect the puck. He’s not very big, at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, but trying to push him off the puck is a nightmare for defenders.
Nyquist has never been to an All-Star game.
Tatar finally got to stay with the Red Wings full time last year after spending four seasons in Grand Rapids. It appears the time in the minors has paid off for the Slovak, who is fourth on the team in points with 28 in 43 games and leads the team in goals with 17.
Tatar is a ball of energy that goes 100 miles per hour every shift. Sometimes, he tries to do too much, like stickhandle through three defenders, but overall, he’s been a great pickup by general manager Ken Holland, as he continues to flourish in his second full season.
Like Nyquist, Tatar had a tendency to pass rather than shoot last year. Through 43 games, he already has accumulated 111 shots, which should crush last year’s total of 158 in 73 games. With each passing game, Tatar continues to gain more and more confidence, and it’s fun to watch him develop.
Tatar has never been to an All-Star game.
So Who Should Go?
Each of these four guys deserves a trip to Columbus to represent the Red Wings. However, only one might go. As enjoyable as it would be to see Zetterberg or Datsyuk go, I’d rather they took the time off to rest for the second half of the season.
Besides, Datsyuk already tried to get out of one All-Star game, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he tries it again.
Therefore, I think Nyquist deserves the nod. He showed last year’s goal-scoring flurry was no fluke, and he will be an offensive force for years to come in this league.
He’ll enjoy the experience of attending his first All-Star game, and he’ll get to showcase his skills on a national level.
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Tom Mitsos is a Detroit Red Wings and Grand Rapids Griffins staff writer for The Hockey Writers. You can follow him on Twitter @tom_mitsos.