Feb. 23, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Red Wings left wing Justin Abdelkader (8) receives congratulations from right wing Todd Bertuzzi (44) after scoring in the third period against the Vancouver Canucks at Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Todd Bertuzzi vs Justin Abdelkader

Todd Bertuzzi and Justin Abdelkader will be battling in training camp in order to play alongside Pavel Datsyuk on the first line.

For most of his time in Detroit it has been Todd Bertuzzi’s role on the team to play on Pavel Datsyuk’s wing and create room on the ice for the skilled center, but with the emergence of Justin Abdelkader this past season it could spell the end of Bertuzzi on the top line.

Do not count out the old dog though. Bertuzzi may be getting up in years, but he still has the 6’3″ frame and hands that still make NHL players jealous.

When healthy last season, Bertuzzi had 3 points in seven games paired up with Datsyuk and in the three seasons before that, he had 44, 45, and 38 points alongside the talented center.

Back problems have been an issue for Bertuzzi, but what ailed him this season was not a back issue, it was a pinched nerve. He is fully healthy and because of that he will come into the 2013-14 season healthy and ready to play.

Bertuzzi is not the power forward that he once was, but he still bring a tremendous amount of skill to the Red Wings and the way him and Datsyuk play together is magical.

With Todd Bertuzzi coming back into the fold for Detroit it puts a lot of pressure on Justin Abdelkader to keep his spot on the top line.

When Todd Bertuzzi and Mikael Samuelsson went down with injuries Justin Abdelkader was tapped to be the new winger on Datsyuk’s line and he took full advantage of the opportunity.

Abdelkader struggled through his first few games on the first line, but came into his own in the last 15 games of the season and during the playoffs.

Playing along side Datsyuk helped Abdelkader record his first 10 goal season and his first hat trick as an NHLer.

A lot of people doubted that Abdelkader would be able to hold up against the other teams top line, myself included, but he did a solid job. He back-checked well, fore-checked even better, and he was able to produce points for the team.

Datsyuk called him the guy that pulls the piano and he did just that for the Red Wings. He was not called upon to make the big plays or create scoring chances, but he was called upon to play a Tomas Holmstrom type role. He would drive the net, retrieve pucks, and try to create room on the ice for Datsyuk to move into.

Despite all of the good Abdelkader did on the first line there are still doubts surrounding him; He received less time on the power play than Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar, it was a difficult transition to the top line for him, and he might be better suited as a third line grinder than a first line power forward.

All of the doubts will be answered next season when Mike Babcock releases his line-up before Game 1 on October 2nd.

I believe that come October 2nd, if everyone is healthy, Todd Bertuzzi will be getting the call to line-up next to Pavel Datsyuk for the last season of his current contract.

Who do you think will be on Datsyuk’s wing come October 2nd, Bertuzzi or Abdelkader?

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Tags: Detroit Red Wings Justin Abdelkader Todd Bertuzzi

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