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Billboard ushered in Abdelkader's fame years ago

Wednesday, 06.3.2009 / 12:26 PM ET / News
By Larry Wigge  - NHL.com Columnist
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Billboard ushered in Abdelkader\'s fame years ago
PITTSBURGH -- The legend of 22-year-old Justin Abdelkader continues to grow.

From zero goals in the four regular-season games over the last two years and no goals in his first seven playoff games leading into the Stanley Cup finals -- where he became the first rookie to score in consecutive Cup finals games since Minnesota's Dino Ciccarelli in 1981.

Oh yeah, Abdelkader's two goals currently are more than Penguins' stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin combined.

And now Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma tells us how he also grew up in Muskegon and was one of the first players from that area to make it to the National Hockey League, but ...

I never had a billboard in Western Michigan. Justin did," Bylsma said with a little tough of "jealousy" in his voice. "I don't know if he still does. But I was fully aware of this kid from Michigan growing up.

"I remember seeing the billboard and I was a little jealous I never got one -- not that I'm a billboard type of guy. But he got it."

As it turns out the billboard in Muskegon wasn't for Justin's play at Mona Shores High School, where he was Michigan's Mr. Hockey in 2004 when he scored 37 goals and 43 assists in 28 games. Rather it was a billboard relating to a knee injury he had in high school and the rehab he had afterward.

"The billboard was for a physical therapy unit that helped me with my rehab after knee scope when I was in high school," Abdelkader said, a little embarrassed to know that the whole world now knows of this billboard he thought he had lived down before he got to Michigan State, where NCAA rules said the sign had to come down and prohibited him from being involved in any sort of advertisement.

"It was weird, actually. I had surgery, worked on getting my knee back in shape and there I am splattered all over a billboard, showing my knee and how I could now do things I couldn't when I injured the knee."

Bylsma's "jealously" aside, he is proud of this Muskegon kid, who went on to MSU, was selected in the second round (No. 42) in the 2005 Entry Draft by the Red Wings, and went on to score the winning goal in the NCAA championship game against Boston College in 2007.

And now, more publicity against another Muskegon native.

"Even when he was young, I followed his career, even though I had not met him," Bylsma said. "Then when he went on to Michigan State and I remember hearing talk about where he was going to rank as a pro. I was fully aware of him, though I never got a chance to meet him until this year in Grand Rapids, where I met his family."

So, Dan what do you think of Justin's play so far against your team?

"When your team plays well enough and you have a great team concept, you give everybody a chance to put on the cape on any given night," he said. "Unfortunately for us he's been wearing it for two games here."

So far, the cape fits Abdelkader pretty well. Probably better than the billboard.




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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 51 38 9 4 166 114 80
2 FLA 52 31 15 6 143 115 68
3 NYR 52 29 18 5 148 134 63
4 TBL 51 29 18 4 137 118 62
5 BOS 52 28 18 6 151 137 62
6 NYI 51 27 18 6 143 127 60
7 DET 52 26 18 8 130 131 60
8 PIT 51 26 18 7 132 130 59
9 NJD 53 26 20 7 119 120 59
10 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
11 MTL 54 26 24 4 143 143 56
12 PHI 51 23 19 9 121 133 55
13 OTT 53 24 23 6 148 165 54
14 BUF 53 21 26 6 120 139 48
15 TOR 51 19 23 9 117 140 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
D. Larkin 51 18 19 25 37
H. Zetterberg 52 9 25 2 34
T. Tatar 51 15 17 -2 32
G. Nyquist 52 14 15 -2 29
J. Abdelkader 52 14 12 -4 26
P. Datsyuk 37 6 20 11 26
M. Green 46 4 17 -7 21
N. Kronwall 45 3 14 -10 17
B. Richards 38 5 10 6 15
D. DeKeyser 48 6 8 12 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Mrazek 19 10 4 .932 2.03
J. Howard 7 8 4 .904 2.89