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Wings' rookie ready for his playoff debut

Sunday, 05.10.2009 / 8:09 PM ET / News
By Brian Compton  - NHL.com Staff Writer
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Wings\' rookie ready for his playoff debut
DETROIT -- Justin Abdelkader had to pinch himself at Joe Louis Arena, just to make sure he wasn't dreaming.

It's no dream, kid. You're in.

The 22-year-old power forward played in his first NHL postseason game on Sunday night, when he and the Red Wings host the Anaheim Ducks in Game 5 of their Western Conference semifinals. The 6-foot-2, 203-pound left wing will likely replace Tomas Kopecky, who was injured during a fight with Francois Beauchemin in Game 4. The Wings say he may need surgery.

On Sunday, Abdelkader assisted on the Wings' first goal, and led all skaters with nine hits on 10 shifts.

Abdelkader has just four NHL games on his resume -- two in each of the past two seasons. The former second-round draft pick (2005) had 24 goals, 28 assists and 102 penalty minutes in 76 games for the Grand Rapids Griffins in the American Hockey League in 2008-09.

This is his reward.

"I think this season in Grand Rapids and the playoffs there prepared me for this, so I'm ready," said Abdelkader, who had 6 goals and 2 assists in 10 AHL playoff games. "I was here last year and kind of know how things are run. Obviously the intensity's up in the playoffs, and I think I'll be well prepared going into it."

Abdelkader had better be prepared to play a physical game, because that's what Detroit coach Mike Babcock is expecting. Considering the size and strength at the opposite end of the ice, Abdelkader just might be the injection the Wings need. He's expected to skate on the fourth line with Kirk Maltby and Mikael Samuelsson.

"He played hard and was a team leader down there," Babcock said. "(Grand Rapids coach) Curt Fraser really liked him, and we liked him in exhibition (season). He played hard for us. We think he's the kind of player we need to add to our lineup going ahead here in the future. He plays the game hard. What do expect him to do? We expect him to get on the forecheck and run over people."

That's just fine with Abdelkader, who joined the Red Wings' organization after spending the past three campaigns at Michigan State University. He then landed in Detroit following the completion of last year's collegiate season.

"That's how I played all year in Grand Rapids," Abdelkader said of playing a physical style. "That's how I've been my whole career, so it's not like I've got to change anything up. I think that's the best part about it."

Detroit Red Wings Playoff GearThe 2008-09 season was about adjusting to the professional schedule, which, judging by his numbers, Abdelkader seemed to do with ease. However, he admitted there were some tough times -- like being asked to play three games in as many nights.
"Long bus rides, the late nights and early mornings … the schedule had a lot of 3-in-3's," Abdelkader said. "I know they don't play any up here. It got pretty tough, but I think mentally it makes you that much stronger."

While the flight out to Anaheim after Game 5 will be just another trip to the West Coast for his teammates, it's something Abdelkader will relish after all the miles he logged on the bus this season.

Playing in the NHL does have its perks.

"That won't be too bad," he said, smiling. "I'm excited about that, that's for sure."
 


SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 PLAYOFFS
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
T. Tatar 5 0 3 1 3
M. Green 5 1 1 -1 2
A. Athanasiou 5 1 0 1 1
G. Nyquist 5 1 0 2 1
H. Zetterberg 5 1 0 3 1
J. Abdelkader 5 1 0 -3 1
B. Richards 5 1 0 -4 1
D. Helm 5 1 0 -1 1
D. Larkin 5 1 0 -2 1
N. Kronwall 5 0 1 3 1
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Mrazek 1 2 0 .945 1.36
J. Howard 0 2 0 .891 3.59