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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 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 248 187 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 237 199 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 245 224 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 217 204 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 227 248 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 212 223 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 176 209 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 183 219 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
H. Zetterberg 77 17 49 -6 66
P. Datsyuk 63 26 39 12 65
T. Tatar 82 29 27 6 56
G. Nyquist 82 27 27 -11 54
J. Abdelkader 71 23 21 3 44
N. Kronwall 80 9 35 -4 44
R. Sheahan 79 13 23 -3 36
D. Helm 75 15 18 7 33
D. DeKeyser 80 2 29 11 31
S. Weiss 52 9 16 -2 25
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Howard 23 13 11 .910 2.44
P. Mrazek 16 9 2 .918 2.38

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