DETROIT – The Red Wings will have two regulars back in their lineup when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight at Joe Louis Arena.
The hope is that both – forward Justin Abdelkader, who missed seven games with a shoulder injury and defenseman Danny DeKeyser, out two games with an undisclosed upper-body injury – can pick up where they left off before they were hurt.
Abdelkader has been a tremendous asset on the Red Wings’ top lines this season. His diligent work in the corners, digging out pucks for others has been beneficial to top-line scorers Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.
“Abby is a different threat,” defenseman Brendan Smith said. “He can be a strong guy, power forward, hit and get pucks and get them to Pavel. That’s what you’ve seen in the past. He’s actually meshed with the top scorers like Pavel and Z very well because of his role. You need guys to complement each other. Look at video games, who complements each other, you need to have a power forward with a goal-scorer, a playmaker with a goal-scorer. That’s what Abby does with those goes.”
Meanwhile, on the other end of the ice, DeKeyser’s smooth passing touch gives Detroit a seamless transition on break outs of their own zone.
“DK moves the puck very well on the back end,” Smith said. “Coach talks about that seven-second rule, where you want to get out of your own end in seven seconds. If you don’t you end up playing the shift in your end. He’s very good. That’s maybe his best aspect. His first pass is one of the best. For him to do that, it’s good to have him back.
Abdelkader was injured Nov. 30 on an open-ice collision with Vancouver defenseman Luca Sbisa at Joe Louis Arena.
“It was tough to go out,” said Abdelkader, who seven goals and 15 points n 24 games. “It’s always an unfortunate part of the game, injuries always happen. Hopefully I can pick up where I left off.”
The Red Wings need Abdelkader’s physical presence. For the past four-plus seasons, the 6-foot-2, 218-pounder has led Detroit forwards in hits. This season he leads the club with 57 hits, six more than fourth-line grinder Luke Glendening.
“He’s a real hockey player, he plays hard every night,” coach Mike Babcock said. “You know he’s coming to play, he gives you what he’s got every single night. He doesn’t vary. He’s on the forecheck. He gives skill players a guy to get the puck back. He’s good around the net, he’s good on the forecheck. You can count on him late in the game to make the right play on the wall. He’s a good hockey player.”
Abdelkader missed little more than two weeks, but managed to skate throughout his recovery period, which should help him return to game speed quicker.
“That was important. I’ve been able to skate,” he said. “Do some leg workouts and have been able to stay ready that way. Nothing is like playing in a game. You can’t compensate for that. For the most part I think I’m ready that way. I’m looking forward and excited about tonight.”
IN & OUT:
Left Wing - DET
Goals: 12 | Assists: 9 | Pts: 21
Shots: 82 | +/-: 2
Forward Tomas Tatar
seems to have recovered from an illness that held him out of Monday’s practice. The same can’t be said for forward Johan Franzen
, who will sit out tonight’s game with an illness.
Tatar, who has eight points in his past eight games, said he began feeling ill before last Saturday’s game at Toronto.
“I feel a little better today,” he said. “I had normal symptoms of flu, running nose and a little cough. Yesterday wasn’t as bad. I took a day off. I stayed in the bed to try and get over it.”
FIRST PRO GAME AT JLA: Blue Jackets forward Corey Tropp has been to The Joe as a fan and as a player, but never as a pro.
Right Wing - CBJ
Goals: 0 | Assists: 1 | Pts: 1
Shots: 3 | +/-: -6
“When I got called up my rookie year we were already here, and then the following year I tore my ACL,” said Tropp, who began his NHL career with Buffalo in 2011. “It’s exciting. It’ll be fun. Got family and friends coming down so it will be nice to get out there and have some fun.”
Tropp, who was born and raised in Grosse Pointe, Mich., will play his first career NHL game in his hometown tonight.
Players who get their first opportunity to skate at JLA often speak of the history and atmosphere inside the 35-year old landmark that sits alongside the Detroit River across from Canada.
“I know growing up and coming from Detroit they had a lot of history, now making the playoffs for 23 straight years,” said Tropp, who played at Michigan State. “When I was real young, a little guy, every spring was pretty exciting down here. I’ve been to a lot of those playoffs games and it’s always fun coming back.”
Besides being a Red Wings fan as a kid, Tropp loved the Detroit Lions. He still follows his favorite NHL team as they get closer to a playoff berth in the National Football Conference.
“We’ve been fortunate with our schedule this year where we’ve had a lot of Sundays off, so I’ve been able to catch a lot of the games. It’s always fun to watch them play. I’m a big Calvin Johnson fan, which I think everyone in Detroit is. But he’s special. (Matthew) Stafford’s special, the defense is doing awesome, so it’s an exciting time. If you’ve been around long enough you know you have to stick with it thick or thin. But it’s rewarding to see what they’re doing now.
“My old man and I would go down to the Silverdome to games every once in a while. We would go to a couple of games a year and check out Barry Sanders. I was too young to know what was going on, but all I came remember is that the fans were booing a lot.”