Justin Abdelkader picked up right where he left off last season and we could be hearing his name being called often during the season, in a positive manner.
During Training Camp, Abdelkader had 2 goals in his first scrimmage and 1 goal in the second scrimmage. Two of his goals came from crashing to the net and getting beautiful feeds from either Henrik Zetterberg or Pavel Datsyuk to tip into the net, but he has a solid shot to go along with his grinding game.
When Daniel Cleary was re-signed by the Detroit Red Wings, Ken Holland and Mike Babcock had him slated to take over for Abdelkader on the top line, but he played so well with Datsyuk and Zetterberg in the first scrimmage that Cleary was bumped down and Abdlekader stayed on the top line.
The only area where Cleary’s game is a bit better than Abdlekader’s is in front of the net. Cleary knows where to stand in order to block off the goalie’s vision, while being able to slip out-of-the-way of the puck.
Abdelkader has been working on his net front presence and tipping abilities during the off-season in order to take over for Tomas Holmstrom, but he still has a way to go before he catches up to Homer.
In the first preseason game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Abdlekader did a good job at getting under their skin and taking them off of their game.
Abdelkader dropped some big hits on the Pens and despite an inadvertent high stick, had a very solid game. He did get blasted by a Pen because he was watching his pass, but after a long time away from the game it is to be expected.
On the power play, he set up shop in front of the net and screened Tomas Vokoun very well. The Red Wings’ first line power play was not as dominate as anyone hoped, but they had some good chances. Abdelkader should continue to work with Homer on how to tip the puck out in front of the net.
This could mark the beginning of Abdelkader being a full-time first liner for the Detroit Red Wings.