‘Smart’ decision keeps Abdelkader active for Game 4

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Brian Boyle tries to goad Justin Abdelkader into a fight at the end of Game 3.

Detroit – Give credit to Justin Abdelkader for having a ton of composure.

Tampa Bay’s Brian Boyle challenged Abdelkader to fight Sunday at the end of Game 3, only to have Abdelkader decline, for a variety of reasons.

Primarily, Abdelkader had already earned a misconduct in Game 2 for fighting Tampa’s Mike Blunden, and another misconduct would have earned him a one-game suspension.

“I’ve got to be smart,” Abdelkader said. “I don’t want to take myself out of the series.”

Boyle made a chicken-wing motion at Abdelkader and the Red Wings bench afterward.

“I don’t need to comment on that,” Abdelkader said. “If he wants to do that, good for him.”

Abdelkader’s teammates stood by his decision Monday.

“It’s getting blown out of proportion,” said forward Luke Glendening of Boyle’s antics. “I don’t think it’s a big deal. We’re here to play hockey. You can do whatever you want, but it’s a hockey game not a dance off.”

Teammates said Abdelkader’s tough-minded, physical style of play is a huge plus for the Red Wings.

“That’s the type of player he is; he always plays hard and he creates a lot of room for his teammates,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “He’s not afraid and he’s been playing well this season and this series.

“The Boyle thing afterward, you’ll probably have to ask him (Boyle) about that.”

Krupa: Wings' spirited play pays immediate dividends

Coach Jeff Blashill told Abdelkader before Game 3 not to fight.

“I told him going into the game I didn’t want him to (fight),” Blashill said. “First of all, he’s too valuable a player for us, so that was my instruction to him.

“There were other reasons at the end of the game why he didn’t. He’s extremely valuable to our hockey team and we want to make sure he’s on the ice playing for us as much as possible.”

Blashill wasn’t concerned about Boyle’s antics.

“I’m worried whistle to whistle,” Blashill said. “Once the buzzer sounds, the rest of it, it doesn’t matter. Our approach is to win the games. That’s our total focus.”

Veteran perspective

Veteran forward Brad Richards said Monday the Red Wings have to play with the same intensity and passion they did in Game 3, as they still trail in the series 2-1.

“They (the Lightning) have an unbelievable opportunity,” Richards said. “That’s what they’re going to be saying, to be able to go back home (ahead) 3-1. We haven’t done anything yet. We’ve won a game, but that doesn’t do much in a best-of-seven.

“We’ve got to bring even more intensity and desperation.”

Blashill agrees wholeheartedly with Richards.

“He’s 100-percent right,” Blashill said. “We won one hockey game. I told our guys the series wasn’t over after two games and it sure as heck isn’t over after three.

“We all understand Tampa sits in a better position. They’re up 2-1 and we better have the same level of urgency that we showed up with last night in order to give ourselves the best chance to just even the series.”

Power-play problems

The Red Wings are 1-for-17 on the power play through three games. Could they take a look at Andreas Athanasiou on the unit?

“We’ve certainly looked at everything as we go through the decision process,” said Blashill, adding, “I would certainly give lots of credit to Tampa’s penalty kill. They do a really good job.”

The Lightning have done a fine job taking away shooting lanes.

“They’ve committed to putting their bodies in front of our lanes,” defenseman Mike Green said. “It’s caused a hard time for us to get pucks through.”