Red Wings' Justin Abdelkader soaring behind the shield
New York — Nobody is saying Justin Abdelkader has turned back the clock, or anything of that sort.
At age 30, Abdelkader is still in the prime of his career.
But there’s no doubt the Abdelkader over the last month has looked much more like the Justin Abdelkader from two or three seasons ago, when he appeared on his way to becoming one of the better power forwards in the NHL.
“I feel like I’m doing a lot of good things, been getting chances and trying to play both ends of the ice, defensively and offensively,” Abdelkader said.
Abdelkader has 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) in his last 11 games.
Abdelkader has 16 points (12 assists, four goals) this season, after finishing all last season with 21 points (7 goals, 14 assists).
“Points are always nice, they’re not always going to come, but when they come it’s a nice thing,” Abdelkader said.
The two previous seasons, Abdelkader was a 19- and 23-goal scorer.
A knee injury kept Abdelkader out of the lineup for a month last season, and when he returned, the rust and discomfort never seemed to completely go away.
“Last year was a tough year,” Abdelkader said. “I didn’t get off to the start I wanted and once I had that knee injury, I just never felt the same.
“I had a good summer of training, a good summer of eating and I felt real good coming into (training) camp.”
Coach Jeff Blashill has always regarded Abdelkader as one of the team’s key players because of Abdelkader’s size (6-foot-2, 214-pounds) and offensive skills to go with that physical presence.
And Abdelkader’s performance over the last month has really been a difference maker.
“He’s been real good,” Blashill said. “He’s forechecking real hard — he can be a real good forechecker — and he’s done a real good job of that.
“About a month or so ago, we needed way more net presence and he’s one of the guys who leads the way on that as an example for the rest of the team.
“He’s a commodity in the league because of his size, physicality and his a talent, but he’s certainly a commodity on our team as well. We don’t have a lot of guys that look like him, so he’s an important piece for us.”
Abdelkader has approximately another six weeks to wear a face shield to protect a slightly fractured cheekbone he suffered Nov. 9 in Calgary.
Admittedly, it’s been a struggle to adjust to it, although the offensive numbers would say otherwise.
“You deal with it,” Abdelkader said. “I’m lucky to still be able to play with it. It’s one of the things you deal with, an injury that you’re fortunate doesn’t keep you out.”
Forward Martin Frk (groin) is hopeful of rejoining the Red Wings later next week after having skating on his own earlier this week.
Frk is looking to get a couple of full practices in early next week, which would get him, physically, that much closer to a return to the lineup.
“It depends how I feel, too," Frk said. "I’m not sure exactly when I will play, but the goal is to go skate Monday with the team.”
Frk hasn’t fully extended himself on the ice, yet, in those low-energy skates.
“They don’t want to push it, so just crossovers,” Frk said. “More like strides, not stop and starts yet. It was just basic.”
DEVILS AT RED WINGS
Faceoff: 7 p.m., Saturday, Little Caesars Arena.
TV/radio: Fox Sports Detroit/97.1 FM
Outlook: The Devils have been one of the surprise teams in the league this season behind a young, fast roster…LW Brian Gibbons (10 goals) and D Will Butcher (14 assists) are just two of the emerging players.