Notes: Abdelkader to return to Wings’ lineup Tuesday
DETROIT — Before he was injured, Red Wings’ forward Justin Abdelkader was perhaps the team’s best forward, certainly he was Detroit’s most versatile.
In 24 games played, the former MSU Spartan had 15 points, notching seven goals with eight assists and was a plus-6, but most impressive was that whatever role coach Mike Babcock needed to plug him into, he responded extremely well.
From the first line to the fourth line, to the penalty kill to the power play and everything in between, Abdelkader has delivered.
So even though injuries and illness are starting to catch up to the Wings, it is an encouraging sign that Abdelkader will return to the Wings’ lineup tonight at the Joe against Columbus after missing seven games with a separated shoulder.
"He’s a real hockey player, he plays hard every night. You know he’s coming to play; he gives you what he’s got every single night. He doesn’t vary," Babcock said about Abdelkader after today’s morning skate. "He’s on the forecheck. He gives skill players a guy to get the puck back. He’s good around the net; he’s good on the forecheck.
"You can count on him late in the game to make the right play on the wall. He’s a good hockey player."
Babcock feels that despite the layoff, Abdelkader should be ready to go because he didn’t have a leg injury, which he believes takes a player longer to get up to speed from.
"I don’t think that’s a big issue because he skated. When you get leg issues it takes you longer to come back. Is it going to be as smooth as it might be? I think tonight he’ll be fine," Babcock said. "It’s when you play a few in a row. We’re set up with a pretty good schedule right now.
"We just played five (games) in eight (days). We should be getting our energy back and get ready to go on a run here."
Abdelkader was out longer that he thought, but he believes it’s from the physical game he plays that he needed to be cautious that his shoulder was completely healed.
"It feels pretty good. There’s always going to be soreness coming off an injury like that. I got my strength back which is the most important," Abdelkader said. "You don’t want to be tentative. You don’t want to not have your strength or not be able to a battle.
"I’ve been able to skate. Do some leg workouts and have been able to stay ready. For the most part I think I’m ready that way. I’m looking forward and excited about tonight."
Gustav Nyquist will be paired with Abdelkader on a line tonight centered by Captain Henrik Zetterberg. Nyquist feels that Abdelkader brings an all around skill set rivaled by only a few players in the league.
"Abby’s a guy we need in the lineup. He helps us in so many ways. He’s a big body. He can bring a physical presence," said Nyquist. "He brings a lot to this team. A lot of energy, he can skate well.
"He’s had a real good year offensively, putting up goals. He’s that big net-front presence we all want."
TATAR IN, WEISS ON SHORT-TERM IR
Johan Franzen will miss tonight’s game because he’s ill, and the Wings want to stress that it’s not the mumps. Another Red Wing that hasn’t been feeling well is Tomas Tatar, but he’s in the lineup.
"I didn’t feel good before the Toronto game and after I had a little flu. I feel a little better today," Tartar said. "I had normal symptoms of flu, running nose and a little cough."
Tatar wasn’t concern that he had contracted the mumps, which is making the rounds in the NHL.
"I wasn’t really worried. I guess it’s something around here. Lots of my friends are getting flu symptoms. I took it normal. Just tried to get some rest," he said.
One Wing that is expected to miss some action is forward Stephen Weiss, who injured his shoulder on an awkward check into the boards last Friday against Florida.
Weiss was placed on short-term IR and is eligible to come off on Sunday. The move was made to keep Xavier Ouellet in Detroit.
Ouellet hasn’t looked out of place in the Wings’ lineup and he’s a favorite of Babcock. In seven games played this season, he has two points (a goal and an assist) and is a plus-3. He is averaging around 16:30 of ice time per game.
With Danny DeKeyser also healthy again and in tonight’s lineup, the Wings needed to make a roster move, but Ouellet’s reprieve may be short-lived. He could still be in Grand Rapids by next week.