VANCOUVER – Justin Abdelkader was a marked man Saturday night.
Not by the Vancouver Canucks, but by his own linemate.
Center Pavel Datsyuk fired a pair of shots that just so happened to ricochet off of Abdelkader body parts and past Canucks netminder Roberto Luongo.
“I’m just a firing range for Pav,” said Abdelkader, who had his first two-goal game of the season. “I’ll take it. I don’t mind.”
Abdelkader’s goals – one off his foot, the other off his chest – helped propel the Red Wings to a much-needed 5-2 victory over the Canucks before a sold-out Rogers Arena.
The win capped a successful three-game road swing to western Canada for the Wings, who nabbed four out of a possible six points on the trip.
Abdelkader’s goals came as a surprise though. Not because his only other goal this year was shot into an empty net, but because it was a game-time decision on whether or not he would be in the lineup.
“Sometimes they’re not the prettiest, but they don’t ask how (you score),” he said. “I haven’t had the best of breaks all year, so anytime you can get a couple of breaks like that you’ll take it.”
Coach Mike Babcock said the forward’s decision to play with an extremely painful left foot – which was cut by a skate blade in Friday’s overtime win in Edmonton – was solely up to Abdelkader.
The freakish injury occurred late in the second period against the Oilers when another player’s skate blade sliced through the laces as well as the thick leather tongue on Abdelkader’s left boot, leaving his flesh fileted to the bone.
“I’ve got stitches in there. It’s still pretty sore,” said Abdelkader, as he stood before reporters in the Wings’ dressing room Saturday, wearing a blood-soaked sock on his injured foot.
The decision to play was made easier, Abdelkader said, after team masseur Sergei “Chika” Tchekmarev affixed a plastic piece to the damaged area of the skate tongue which alleviated pressure.
“Otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to play, because you put any kind of pressure on it, it hurts,” Abdelkader said. “It felt pretty good. I’m not going to say it was 100 percent, but it was a lot better than it would have been.”
But the one thing that Abdelkader didn’t want to have happen though, happened. He took a puck off the wounded foot when Datsyuk’s first-period shot struck the left skate as the former Michigan State star parked in front of the Canucks’ crease.
“Yup, the foot that I hurt,” Abdelkader said with a laugh. “He wanted to make sure I was feeling good right away, so he figured he’s shoot it off my foot.”
The goal allowed the Wings to head to the first intermission feeling a little better about themselves after the Canucks scored six-seconds into the game.
“They obviously put us on our heels right away and we knew they were going to come out strong in the first 10-minutes and they did that,” Abdelkader said. “I think it was good to get our goal to kind of settle us down. In the first period we didn’t play too well, and they were on top of us. I think in some ways we were lucky to get out of there at 1-1.”
The Red Wings went on to score five straight goals, including two by captain Henrik Zetterberg and another by forward Daniel Cleary. Four different Red Wings had multi-point performances, including Datsyuk (three assists) and Johan Franzen (two assists).
Abdelkader’s second goal – the one that first struck him in the crest – went to video replay before it was confirmed, giving the Wings a 5-1 lead late in the third period.
“I saw it go in because I was right there,” he said. “The ref didn’t make any signal. … Sometimes they interpret it in different ways, but you never know. I was pretty positive that it went in and obviously the replay showed that.”
THREE STARS: 3, Alex Burrows, VAN (2 goals); 2, Henrik Zetterberg, DET (2 goals); 1, Pavel Datsyuk, DET (3 assists).
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