Abdelkader Looking To Bounce Back
No one has to tell Justin Abdelkader that the 2018-19 NHL campaign was a lost season for him.
The veteran winger finished with just six goals, his lowest output in a full season as an NHLer.
“Everyone has off years in their career, right?,” Abdelkader explained to MLive.com. “It’s a time that you try to really refocus and look back on the season as a whole, what you can do differently to be better and make sure you can go out and contribute.
“I feel good. I’m just gonna go out and play the way I can play and hopefully contribute this year, whether it’s points, penalty kill, power play, being physical and doing all the little things.”
In his best seasons, Abdelkader was a valuable asset. He could put the puck in the net. Abdelkader scored 23 goals in 2014-15 and 19 more the following season. He played a physical game and offered a presence in the corners.
Last season, no matter what he tried, no matter the role he was assigned, nothing seemed to click for Abdelkader. He did some soul-searching following the season, and decided it was best to refire his offseason conditioning and change both the way he worked out and his body construction.
“Obviously, coming into the summer I wanted to try to make sure to do some different things, training a little differently,” Abdelkader said. “Just working on more explosive training. Not as heavy of stuff. More focus on speed and quickness.
“The game’s so fluid, so fast. I’ve just got to be ready and prepared for whatever role I’m going to be in and try to contribute that way.”
Wings coach Jeff Blashill thinks that Abdelkader’s approach, admitting why his game was lacking and exhibiting a willingness to correct it, is to be admired.
“I think he made a concerted effort to probably lean out a little bit this year,” Blashill said. “He’s got a real thick body. When he lifts hard, he tends to put lots of muscle mass on.
“I think he made a concerted effort to lean out a little bit and to try to get as quick as he possibly could.”
The other reason that Blashill continues to have faith in Abdelkader when many don’t is that in a league where goals are hard to come by, he has a history of scoring them.
“He’s a guy who has scored in the past,” Blashill said. “If you look around, there’s not a long history of a bunch of guys that are goal-scorers, so he’s somebody that has, and his role is a bit different, but he still has.
“After you get past those first few guys, there’s not many guys who have scored 20 goals in their careers. It doesn’t mean they can’t do it this year, it just means they haven’t, and he’s somebody that has.
“He’s somebody that has had a scoring touch. He had it when he was 16 years old, when I first saw him. He had it when he was at Michigan State. He had it in the minors and he’s had it at times here.
“I’d like to get Abby playing at a super-high level and so would he.”
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