Wings look for Abdelkader to rediscover grinder role

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — This is a frustrating time for Justin Abdelkader.

After four goals in the season’s first two games — including a hat trick opening night — Abdelkader hasn’t scored in the last 12 games.

During Monday’s practice, Abdelkader found himself off a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Dylan Larkin, and primarily skating with Andreas Athanasiou and Teemu Pulkkinen.

Coach Jeff Blashill had Zetterberg and Larkin skating with Pavel Datsyuk, though Datsyuk isn’t quite ready to return from ankle surgery and won’t play Tuesday against Washington.

“Obviously I want to be better,” Abdelkader said. “As a team we want to score more goals and be better. I’m not sure what the lines will be. Pavel (Datsyuk) I think is still out. Maybe the lines will be shaken up. I don’t know, but I just have to focus on myself and you can’t worry about where you’re playing or who you’re playing with.

“When you’re not scoring and points aren’t coming easy, you have to focus on doing things right, and go back to the basics. Be strong on pucks, and be good around the net. We can be harder around their net and the opposing goalie.”

Blashill wants to see Abdelkader return to being the type of grinding, difficult-to-play-against player Abdelkader is known to be.

“It’s not an easy game to play but it is what makes him special,” Blashill said. “Like every player sometimes, they get away from what they’re good at and they have to be reminded at what they’re good at.

“He’s a winner, an elite player in this league, and we think he can get back to that.

“When he’s at his best, he’s on the forecheck, winning puck battles, skating hard on the track and a great net front presence. He’s a grinding player who evolved into a grinder with real good skill. He has to make sure to keep that working, grinding mentality as he moves forward in his career.”

Blashill said he intends to play Zetterberg and Datsyuk together once Datsyuk is ready to play, which could possibly be later this week.

Blashill isn’t sure who the other wing will be with Datsyuk and Zetterberg.

Ericsson hit

Jonathan Ericsson needed 10 stitches for the gash on the side of his forehead after his head hit the glass Sunday on the receiving end of a hit by Stars forward Ales Hemsky.

Hemsky escaped with no penalty, while Ericsson was whistled for a roughing call after retaliating against Hemsky.

Ericsson said he didn’t receive any explanation from referees regarding on the call — or no call — and felt fortunate he didn’t get a concussion.

“It could have been a concussion or something,” Ericsson said. “The head shots, we need to take them out of the game because it’s dangerous.

“When I saw him in the video, he’s jumping (into Ericsson, into the hit). He’s not known for that (kind of play). But it can happen to anyone. I don’t know if he meant to do it.”

Old friends

Mike Green gets to play against the team he played for 10 years Tuesday, the Washington Capitals.

“It’ll be strange,” Green said. “I’ve moved forward. It’s just more exciting than anything now. It’s an important game for us, we want to make sure to get the two points.

“Getting a win would be the sweetest thing.”

Green said he’s received several texts from former teammates, including good friend Nicklas Backstrom.

“I might send them to the wrong restaurant and not show up,” Green said.

Green is pleased with the way things have turned out.

“I was there a long time and sometimes change is good,” Green said. “I felt I was stagnating there and I felt coming here would be the best thing for that.”

Ice chips

Kyle Quincey (right ankle) will see the doctor Tuesday who performed surgery on his left ankle to determine a course of action for his current condition.

Jimmy Howard said he was ready to go back in Sunday after getting bumped on the head in the third period.

“I came in here (dressing room) and they asked me some questions and I passed everything,” Howard said. “I switched my contacts and I wanted to go in but they (coaches) said no.

“It hurt. It definitely hurt (the head). But everything went away right away. I just couldn’t get my contacts into focus out there (on the ice).”

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Capitals at Red Wings

Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday night, Joe Louis Arena, Detroit.

TV/radio: FSD/97.1

Outlook: Washington (10-3-0, 20 points) is second in the Metropolitan Division and been rolling from the start of the season…LW Alex Ovechkin (eight goals, eight assists) is tied with former Red Wing Sergei Fedorov for most goals scored by a Russian player in the NHL (483).