DETROIT – Four days after sustaining a concussion against Pittsburgh, forward Justin Abdelkader returned to the ice as the Red Wings practiced outdoors at Comerica Park in preparation for next month’s NHL Winter Classic in Ann Arbor.
"I feel good so far,” Abdelkader said. “No contact yet, but working my way back. It's a process and we'll see. As long as I have no setbacks, we'll see what happens. Keep building each day."
The forward had to be helped off the ice late in the first period of Saturday’s game after receiving an illegal hit to the head from defenseman Deryk Engelland. The collision occurred when Abdelkader reached for a loose puck and Engelland lowered his right shoulder and made contact with the left side of Abdelkader’s head.
"He caught me with a shoulder,” Abdelkader said. “I don't think he's trying to hit me in the head at all. He's just trying to take the body there and he got my head. It's an unfortunate play, but I think the league has done a good job of trying to crack down on those hits and they review all those hits."
Engelland was assessed a match penalty for the hit, and the National Hockey League’s department of player safety announced today that the defenseman has been suspended for five games without pay for the hit.
“The first day, two days I still had some headaches, some lingering headaches,” Abdelkader said of the injury. “Everything's been feeling good so far. Today was my first day on the ice and hopefully I can just keep getting better with no setbacks.”
The Muskegon, Michigan native has recorded 13 points in 34 games for the Red Wings this season, and has missed two games due to the injury. Although he participated in all of the team’s skating drills Wednesday, Abdelkader has no timetable for a return as the Red Wings follow the league’s protocol for concussion.
"I have to talk to Piet (Van Zant) still and see, but hopefully soon,” Abdelkader said of the team’s athletic trainer. “Hopefully before break. Not ruling that out yet but we'll see.”
The date of Abdelkader’s return may be uncertain, but his teammates were excited to see him back on the ice.
“It was great,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “It was great to see him out here. I thought he looked great, and it sounds like he's doing pretty good. Of course very, very encouraging to see and hear that.”
While Engelland was reprimanded for his illegal hit on Abdelkader, Red Wings defenseman Kyle Quincey will not be suspended for boarding Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf late in the first period of Detroit’s 5-2 loss at The Joe on Tuesday. Quincey received a five-minute major penalty and a game-misconduct for the hit.
“Me and Ryan are good friends, so I talked to him after the game,” Quincey said. “I’m just glad he’s OK.”