DETROIT – Before anyone in the media could ask the obvious question, Justin Abdelkader, leaned toward the microphone set-up on a make-shift stage inside the media center at Joe Louis Arena on Monday morning.
With his voice shaky in the beginning, the Red Wings’ forward made it clear that his second-period hit Saturday on Toni Lydman was simply an accident.
“There was no intent to injure,” a remorseful Abdelkader said. “I have respect for every one of the players in this hockey league. It’s a privilege that we get to play in the NHL. I play a hard game, I play physical. It’s a fast game. Things happen really fast out there.”
Late in the second period of Game 3 in the Western Conference quarterfinals, Abdelkader tracked Lydman as he retrieved the puck below the icing line in the Ducks’ zone. The hit occurred as the defenseman turned to head up ice. He may or may not have seen Abdelkader approach from the other side of the ice.
As Lydman lay motionless on the ice for a time, officials huddled before ultimately rendering a five-minute major for charging and a game-misconduct on Abdelkader, who doesn’t have a reputation as a dirty player.
Lydman was injured on the play when he was struck in the head by Abdelkader’s shoulder or upper arm. The Ducks’ defenseman did not finish Game 3, and may miss the rest of the series with a sore neck and re-occurring headaches, Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said.
The league determined that the hit was egregious and necessitated supplement discipline, levying a two-game suspension on Abdelkader, who will miss tonight’s game as well as Game 5 in Anaheim on Wednesday.
The Red Wings disagree with the league’s ruling, but there’s no sense in dwelling on it, coach Mike Babcock said.
“Well, I gave my thoughts yesterday,” he said. “I guess I was wrong, so let’s move on.”
Even though Abdelkader things he delivered a clean body-check, he plans to learn from the experience that resulted in his first career suspension.
“Even if you’re not trying to target the head, even if you’re trying to target the shoulder, you’ve got to really get low on the hits,” Abdelkader said. “You can’t get anywhere near the head. Anything close, obviously everything’s under a microscope. I’m still going to be physical, but you’ve got to go for the body, which I was trying to do.”
The thought of injuring an opponent and perhaps costing his teammates has affected Abdelkader, who hasn’t slept very well since the incident.
“You want to be out there helping your team, doing whatever you can to get the wins,” Abdelkader said. “It’s unfortunate and I feel bad already about the effect that it had last game. Maybe it was a turning point, I don’t know. I felt bad about it and I’ve got to sit two more games. It’s going to be tough, but I’ll be there supporting, being the biggest cheerleader I can.”
Ducks center Bobby Ryan has found himself on both ends of the controversial kaleidoscope, but he believes that Abdelkader regrets the play.
“I’m sure after seeing it, he probably realized it,” Ryan said. “Either way, you play on. I’ve been on the other side of it, too, and I appreciated it when guys could have said something and held back, so I’ll do the same.”
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose
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