Red Wings' Abdelkader a youth among veterans

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:55 PM ET

Justin Abdelkader is a fresh face among a sea of veterans.

The Detroit Red Wings forward represents the future of the club, which seemingly never seems to get too old.

A native of Muskegon, Mich., Abdelkader, 23, is in his second season with the Red Wings and went into Friday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers having recently returned from a rib injury.

“There is a great deal of respect for a lot of these guys in this locker room that have had such amazing careers,” Abdelkader said. “When you see them doing certain things, you realize that they’ve put the time in and they’ve had such good, long careers, that they’ve kind of show the younger guys show how it needs to be done.

“That’s how it’s always been here, they’ve always had some good veteran leadership. That trickles down to the young guys. You have the veteran leadership guys that lead by example and everybody else just follows through.”

A second-round pick of the Red Wings in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Abdelkader played 50 games for the Red Wings last season, scoring three goals and adding three assists.

He went on to score a goal and add another assist in 10 playoff games.

“I’m more comfortable, obviously, now that I’ve been here for a little bit,” he said. “I’ve put some time in the minors and been here for some playoff games. Because of that, I have a good feel for everything and feel pretty comfortable.”

Abdelkader scored his first goal of the season Wednesday in a 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames.

It was his second game of the season, having suffered his injury during the preseason.

“It’s always nice to get that first one out of the way,” Abdelkader said. “Hopefully there are more to come. You just have to try and get the puck on net and work hard to make your own breaks and to get goals.

“It’s tough to score goals in this league. Everyone concentrates so much on defence now and the goalies are a lot better. You have to fight for every inch on the ice and every goal you get.”

A former standout with the Michigan State Spartans, Abdelkader had a 52-point year in his first full season in the minors before being called up midway through the following year.

He’s done well to find himself a spot in the lineup that features a number of high-profile players.

“It is a tough lineup to crack,” he said. “You have to play well each night. You have a lot of good players in this locker room, but it’s good to create competition among each other, push each other and make each other better. Down the road, at the end of the season and playoffs, it’s going to be huge.”

Going into the game against the Oilers, Abdelkader found himself on a line with Mike Modano and Dan Cleary.

Modano is the latest future Hall of Famer to join the Red Wings ranks.

“It just adds to that veteran leadership and presence that we already have in the locker room,” Abdelkader said. “He’s a good guy to have, a good teammate, a hard worker and brings a lot to the table.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca


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