DETROIT — Red Wings coach Mike Babcock defended Justin Abdelkader on Sunday and believes he should play in Game 4 on Monday.
Of course, former Wing Brendan Shanahan, currently the NHL’s director of player safety, will make that call at 4 p.m.
At 15:11 of the second period Saturday night, Abdelkader leveled Anaheim defenseman Toni Lydman, who didn’t return to the game. Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said after the game that Lydman had a headache.
Abdelkader received a five-minute charging major and a game misconduct, plus the invitation for Sunday’s hearing with Shanahan.
“To me, I watched the hit again (Sunday), and holy mackerel, I don’t know what you’re going to be suspended for, but that’s me,” Babcock said. “You turn the video and pretend that there was contact to the head, maybe you can find something,. But a guy is gliding, goes through a guy, I don’t know.”
Babcock said he watched the replay several times and didn’t see contact to Lydman’s head.
“None,” Babcock said. “I think it was shoulder to shoulder, bent knees going into a guy and exploding through him … I thought it was pretty good contact.”
Daniel Cleary, who hadn’t seen the replay after the game, saw it before coming into the interview room Sunday.
“It’s a hard thing to talk about when it’s your own teammate,” Cleary said. “Certainly, Abby has no history of this. He’s not a guy that targets people. It was a hard hit.”
Abdelkader, who didn’t come to the interview room Sunday, has never been suspended for a bad hit, and his reputation is good, even among the Ducks.
“I know Abdelkader, and that’s not the kind of player he is,” Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler said. “He’s not a guy trying to do something like that.”
Lydman didn’t practice with the Ducks Sunday due to a migraine and sore neck.
Pretty passing, not enough shooting
Throughout the years, the Wings have sometimes fallen into a habit of trying to make nice passes at home rather than just shooting the puck and going for rebounds.
To a man, everyone said that was the case in Game 3 Saturday night.
“We’re not getting to the net,” Babcock said. “We’re not making it hard enough. We’re not going in there hard enough, and we’re not finding enough loose pucks.
“… We’re not having any sustained pressure in their zone to help them make some mistakes.”
Cleary agreed that the Wings didn’t make life difficult enough for Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller in Game 3.
“I think Hiller definitely had a night off (Saturday) night,” Cleary said. “When you get a chance to shoot, you have to think shot.
“We had a lot of good chances (Saturday) night, and maybe we looked to pass instead of getting it to the net. That’s something that we’ll figure out (Monday) and make sure that guys are aware that’s how you’re going to score in the playoffs.”
Although there are some things young players have to go through to gain experience, team leaders can help with the right words.
“For the older guys, leaders on the team, it will be important to remind guys that we’ve been down in series a lot in past years, but by no means was it over,” Cleary said. “We just have to go out and win a game on Monday and make it a best-of-three.
“Anaheim’s a good team. No one thought this was going to happen in five games. You’re going to lose games and you’ve just got to make sure the lows don’t get too low.”
There’s no Nick Lidstrom and Brad Stuart anymore, so other players have to step into those roles.
“It’s upon Pav (Pavel Datsyuk), Z (Zetterberg), myself, Kronner (Nicklas Kronwell), Big E (Jonathan Ericsson) to keep everyone else calm and focused and ready to go,” goaltender Jimmy Howard said. “Never get too high, never get too low and try and keep that even keel. That’s what the playoffs are about.
“It can be an emotional roller coaster. You just have to find that balance.”