Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 6/14/13
Grand Rapids -- The Red Wings' loss was truly the Grand Rapids Griffins' gain. After the Wings lost in overtime of Game 7 in the second round to the Chicago Blackhawks, they immediately sent Gustav Nyquist and Joakim Andersson to the Griffins, who were locked in a battle with the Oklahoma City Barons in the American Hockey League's Western Conference Finals. "They provided us with a shot in the arm after we lost a real tough Game 3 in Oklahoma City," Griffins coach Jeff Blashill said. "I just thought mentally as much as anything, it was a shot in the arm for our guys that they were back. "They'd been big parts of this team, they were real important parts of this team. It wasn't two guys that hadn't been here, it was two guys that fit in right away, were leaders when they left and really helped certainly secure that series and they have helped us a lot in this series." Nyquist and Andersson reunited with former linemate Tomas Tatar and found that old chemistry again, helping the Griffins win in Game 7 against the Barons and sparking them to a 3-0 lead in the Calder Cup Finals against the Syracuse Crunch. "Obviously, I would have liked to be playing yesterday in the triple overtime but it's definitely fun to be down here," Nyquist said after an optional practice Thursday at Van Andel Arena. "Both me and Andy, once we got the message we were going to get sent down and help the team out, we were real excited because we feel like we're a big part of this team. We played most of the season with this team and it's a great experience to be in these playoffs as young guys, too. We really enjoy this opportunity." Said Andersson: "It's fun to be here. We played half the season with these guys and I've been doing two and a half seasons with this team and playing in this barn here. It's a good crowd here. It's fun to be able to play in the finals and go for a championship here." In seven playoff games with the Griffins, Andersson has one goal and four assists and Nyquist has two goals and two assists. The two gained invaluable experience with the Wings in two seven-game series against the Anaheim Ducks and Blackhawks. "You learn lessons as you move through a season and certainly the fact that they went through a couple of grueling playoff series in Detroit helps them and helped prepare them for the games 4, 5, 6 and 7 in the last series," Blashill said. "They were a few of the players that had been in a seventh game. Those are great experiences. Like the rest of our players, they learned all year and had the opportunity to learn in some unique situations in Detroit." Nyquist and Andersson learned from painful experience that a 3-1 lead over the Blackhawks didn't guarantee a series win so they know that a 3-0 lead over the Crunch doesn't mean much -- yet. Game 4 is Friday night in Grand Rapids. "I think we said it right away," Nyquist said. "We said it after the game (Wednesday) night. Obviously we want to enjoy it but at the same time nothing's done yet. If it were done, we'd be standing here with the trophy and we're not. We've still got work ahead of us. The fourth game's always the toughest one to win, that's what I've learned in my short time in the playoffs. We're ready for a battle (in Game 4)." Nyquist and Andersson certainly are battle-tested from their NHL playoff experience. But facing the Crunch is not the same thing as going against the Blackhawks. "Hockey-wise, I think it's a little different game down here," Nyquist said. "Up there it's a little faster. You have a little bit more time with the puck here but it's still a very good level of play, especially this late in the season, a lot of great players on that team." Both Nyquist and Andersson are out of options and should be with the Wings all of next season. Each player learned what it takes to compete at the NHL level, both in the regular season and in the playoffs. "For every game I played, I got more and more comfortable out there," Nyquist said. "I learned when to do my little things out there. Playing with those guys, you look at Hank (Henrik Zetterberg) and Pavel (Datsyuk) and those guys and see how strong they are on the puck, that's what I realized most this year, how strong you have to be on the puck and win those small battles. "That's what counts, that's how you get momentum and that's how you keep the puck in their zone, winning battles and being strong on the puck." Andersson said he gained some confidence by playing five games in the 2011-12 season with the Wings, but took that to a new level this past year. "I was growing from the first game I played with the Red Wings 'til in the playoffs," Andersson said. "I got better and better and most of it was I felt more comfortable. I knew how it was to play against the best players in the league. I was able to do more stuff because of the confidence I got, I tried to be better with the puck and make more plays. I guess, be a good defensive player. I think I developed good during the year." Of course, all of that development meant a lot of games with both the Griffins and Wings. But it will all be worth it if Nyquist and Andersson can end their season on a winning note. "We counted the games the other day. I think I'm at 101 now," Nyquist said. "There's a lot of games that I played this year. But it's fun. I'm still young. It's a long season. This late in the season, you feel it a little bit, especially with the travel, going on buses back and forth to Syracuse. "But at the same time, (Friday) you're playing for a championship. I don't think I'll be thinking about my legs, how they feel. I'm just going to go out there and battle."
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