DETROIT -- While growing up in Muskegon, Mich., in the 1990s Justin Abdelkader enjoyed the bitter rivalry that developed between the Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche.
Though the rhetoric has almost evaporated from those old battles, which featured two goalie fights and other physical run-ins, Abdelkader said he still thinks there is some leftover spite between the two organizations.
“I think it's still there," said Abdekader, who turned 25 on Saturday. "Maybe it's a little different, because I think both teams were pretty much 1-2 during the late [1990s], when they were battling it out. It's a little different, but I think there's still some of that intensity there.''
The Red Wings and Avalanche will face each other for the fourth and final time during the regular season on Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena, which gave Abdelkader an opportunity to reflect on his days growing up as a Red Wings fan.
"It was '97, so I was probably 10 years old or so when it got heated up," Abdelkader said of the rivalry. "Just watching on TV, watching the battles, the playoffs, looked like it was really neat. I remember the fights. Lot of good memories."
If things go well on Saturday night, Abdelkader might make a few memories of his own in the rivalry with the Red Wings. He'll be lined up at right wing on the third line and will try to duplicate his one goal and one assist performance from Thursday night's 4-3 shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks.
Also, he'll have a sizable group of family and friends attending the game and celebrating his birthday.
"It's crazy," Abdelkader said. "Seems like each year goes by faster and faster. Talking to my parents on the way down to the rink ... 25 ... you know, it's wild, but it's pretty neat to get an opportunity to play a game on my birthday."