DETROIT (WOOD) — Muskegon’s Justin Abdelkader will have added responsibilities with the Detroit Red Wings this season as an alternate captain.
“It’s a huge honor. Going up through this organization … I’ve learned under a lot of really good players, good captains we’ve had and now it’s time for me to hopefully help lead these young guys and I’m really looking forward to it,” Abdelkader said.
“He’s been a leader in this room for a long time, I think,” forward Luke Glendening, an East Grand Rapids native, said of Abdelkader. “Ever since I’ve been here, he’s been a leader even though he didn’t have a letter on his jersey. He’s a perfect guy to have it and we’re all excited for him.”
“He’s such a great leader on and off the ice. He definitely leads by example. He’s a teammate that you can go talk to without any problems,” forward Andreas Athanasiou added.
The Red Wings drop the puck on the new season Thursday night in Tampa against the Lightning. Wednesday, head coach Jeff Blashill put the team through one last workout at Joe Louis Arena before they boarded their flight to Florida.
It will be a challenging start to the season: The Lightning knocked the Wings out of the playoffs in the previous two seasons and many have them as the favored to win the Stanley Cup this season. After Tampa, the Wings head to Miami, where they’ll face off against the Panthers, who are the reigning Atlantic Division champs.
The Wings have made the playoffs for the past 25 years, but most experts believe that streak is in jeopardy. Blashill, now in his second year leading the Wings, aims to keep it alive.
“I think every year I’ve been a coach, I hope I’ve grown tons. I think you better keep learning, otherwise you get passed by in a hurry. So I think there’s certainly lots of different challenges and things and opportunities that I learned from last year, and I believe that, just like I was better prepared after three years in GR (as head coach of the Griffins), I’m better prepared after one year in Detroit and I better continue to be better prepared, because I’m learning,” Blashill said.
The Boston Bruins hold the record for consecutive playoff berths with 29.
The Wings’ home opener is Monday against the Ottawa Senators.
This season will be the Wings’ last in Joe Louis Arena.
“It’s a special arena,” Abdelkader said of the Joe. “You don’t see many arenas like this — I don’t think any, really — where you don’t have mid-level suites. You look up and you see all red. … You walk into the Joe and it has that certain smell, certain mystique about it.”
“Growing up here, too, coming to games and watching on TV and knowing the legends that have played here, it’s special and we have an opportunity to close it out and do it the right way, so hopefully that’s what we’ll do,” Glendening added.