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Red Wings' Justin Abdelkader becoming a net-front force

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit -- Justin Abdelkader was channeling his inner Tomas Holmstrom against Columbus Tuesday night. He provided monster net-front presence on the Wings' first two goals.

On the first, he occupied both Jordan Leopold and David Savard in front of the net, to the point where Tomas Tatar was able to grab a rebound unchecked and shoot it past Sergei Bobrovsky.

On the second, Dalton Prout was so engaged in battling with Abdelkader in front of the net, he paid no attention to the loose puck or Gustav Nyquist, who slammed it into the net past Bobrovsky.

"He keeps getting better," coach Mike Babcock said. "We had four net-front presences on five goals, which is important playing against that goalie. With Bobrovsky, you have to find a way to get inside. You try to do that every night; some nights you get there and some nights you don't. Good for Abby."

It mostly takes a lot of will and courage to be a strong net-front player, but Babcock said Abdelkader is starting to learn the art of it, as well.

"You learn over time," he said. "But the reality is, you've got to want to go there. You're not scoring unless you go there. Look at the goals every night in the league, that's just the reality."

Ice chips

Petr Mrazek will make his first start in goal for the Red Wings Thursday. When asked what he expected from him, Babcock said, "A win. It's a big game for him. He's like a lot of kids, he plays better than he practices. He's got to learn how to practice so he can play good consistently. ... He's got a swagger about him. He thinks he's good and he plays good."

… Pavel Datsyuk (groin) and Jonathan Ericsson (maintenance day) did not practice Wednesday. Both traveled to Winnipeg. Ericsson will play and Datsyuk will be evaluated after the morning skate.

… Winnipeg native Darren Helm said he needed to scrounge up at least 20 tickets for family and friends to attend the game Thursday.