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Red Wings’ Nyquist, Smith prepare for a different set of challenges

The Red Wings' two top prospects, Gustav Nyquist and Brendan Smith, had assumed that they'd be spending this weekend in Traverse City, MI before attempting to stake their claims upon significant roles with the Wings this season, but instead of taking steps forward at the NHL level, they're heading to the AHL to reinforce some fundamentals and continue to develop as players as members of the Grand Rapids Griffins. Via RedWingsFeed, Nyquist and Smith spoke to the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner regarding their respective changes in focus:

"It's tough," said the 23 year old  [Smith]. "I love Grand Rapids, love the fans and love my time there. But on the other side, Detroit - every kid grows up wanting to play for the Red Wings. So, to have that possibility maybe taken away kind of sucks, but I understand."

Smith, the Red Wings top pick in 2007, considers himself fortunate that he has the simple option of either Detroit or Grand Rapids compared to others "who are just skating and waiting." And, if he does end up in Grand Rapids, he sees ways to improve.

"It's like what I saw in Nick Lidstrom," Smith said. "No matter the day, no matter how he feels, he's a pro. I totally want to emulate him. So that's something I can work on and maybe grow into more of a leadership role in Grand Rapids."

Nyquist, meanwhile, spent the offseason working to improve his strength and shooting skills.

“I feel like I’ve definitely gotten stronger and I’ve been working on my shot a lot, too, so I should be shooting the puck a little more,” he said.

Both know new Griffins coach Jeff Blashill from his role as an assistant with the Red Wings last season, and both are preparing to play major roles in Grand Rapids.

“I’m just going to go down there and work as hard as I can to get better,” Nyquist said. “We’ll hopefully get this solved and I’ll be ready to come up and take a spot on the Red Wings.”

"There's a lot to learn still," Smith said. "I want to be the best I can and if that means gaining more experience and learning in Grand Rapids, then that's what I'll do."

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George Malik's avatar

Might not be a bad idea to hold a TMR Griffins game gathering?

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 09/20/12 at 04:13 PM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

It’s like what I saw in Nick Lidstrom,” Smith said. “No matter the day, no matter how he feels, he’s a pro. I totally want to emulate him.

My biggest regret for Smith is that he didn’t get to play beside Nick for at least part of a season. He’s definitely got the right attitude. But a little one-on-one mentoring could have paid huge dividends where his “maturation” is concerned.

In July, I was more “amped up” for the start of this season than almost any I can remember. I expected great things from both Smith and Nyquist. And I was “titillated” (without ever once touching myself) just thinking about the craziness of having both Sammy and Tootoo in Wings uniforms. If nothing else, this season was going to be, well, interesting.

Now, the only thing I’m looking forward to is the reaction the Garden Gnome is going to get in every rink in the NHL whenever he dares to make an appearance after the lockout ends. He may have to hire former Secret Service people who are willing to “take a bullet” in order to simply sit in the stands. Maybe $8M per year can buy you that kind of “security,” but it’ll never buy you either respect or peace of mind.

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 09/20/12 at 06:55 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.