Justin Abdelkader is key to Red Wings' success in Game 3

28-year-old forward brings power, poise to Detroit lineup


DETROIT – Justin Abdelkader had a breakout season with a career-best 23 goals and 21 assists in 71 games with the Red Wings this season. 

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His return for Game 3 against the Tampa Bay Lightning is vital to his team's success, and Tampa coach Jon Cooper would agree. 

"Abdelkader, for me, he doesn't get nearly enough press. I've admired him for a long time," Cooper said after Tuesday's morning skate at Joe Louis Arena. 

Cooper said he expects both Abdelkader and Brendan Smith will bring a physical aspect into Detroit's lineup. 

Game 3: Tuesday at Detroit, 7 p.m. (NBCSN)

Story: Brendan Smith is back in Babcock's lineup

"(Their) return won't change our approach ... it will change theirs," he said. 


Abdelkader hasn't played since injuring his hand April 4 in a game against the Minnesota Wild. 

"I'm really excited (to get back out there). It's really tough this time of the year watching and knowing you can help out, just really excited. It's a five-game series now. It's a short series. A race to three and we have home ice advantage," Abdelkader said after Tuesday's morning skate.

The Red Wings dropped Game 2, 5-1, in Tampa. Abdelkader said he expects the team will perform better on home ice.

"I think coming in on home ice, you know, we've been good here all year. We look forward to establishing our game right away," he said.

As for the goals allowed by Petr Mrazek in Game 2, Abdelakder seems confident the rookie will be strong in Game 3.

"He's just a really confident goalie no matter how things go. He's proven himself down in the American League, he's been a great goalie down there, and when he's come up here he's done a terrific job, too," he said.

Abdelkader, 28, has 10 points (5G, 5A) in 54 career playoff games with the Red Wings. He brings a lot of experience to the lineup considering many of his teammates made their playoffs debut last year.

"We gotta do a better job of getting pucks on the net. Their forwards do a good job of blocking shots, too. When we get a chance we have to shoot the puck even more, even if it's going to get blocked it sometimes creates an opportunity. Sometimes pucks lay there and, you know, funny things can happen," he said.

The Red Wings were badly outshot in Game 1, 46-14. The statistic was a bit closer in Game 2 -- 30-24, but still in favor of Tampa.

"Our emphasis has to be to shoot the puck more," said Abdelkader. "We just gotta keep building our game and getting pucks at the net, or toward the net."

Red Wings fans encouraged to arrive early Tuesday night -- doors to Joe Louis Arena open at 5:30 p.m., puck drop scheduled for 7:11 p.m.

Remaining Lightning-Red Wings series schedule:

Game 3: Tuesday at Detroit, 7 p.m. (NBCSN)
Game 4: Thursday, April 23 at Detroit, 7 p.m. (NBCSN)
Game 5: Saturday, April 25 at Tampa Bay, time and TV TBD
Game 6: Monday, April 27 at Detroit, time and TV TBD
Game 7: Wednesday, April 29 at Tampa Bay, time and TV TBD

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