DETROIT – Justin Abdelkader is in some kind of scoring slump.
Abdelkader has no goals and just one assist through 23 games this season.
“I’ve just got to keep doing all the small things, keep shooting, putting the puck on net and hope for some breaks,” Abdelkader said. “I haven’t gotten much puck luck. I’ve just got to keep going to the net and all the hard areas and eventually I’ll find the back of the net.”
This scoring slump carried over from last season.
In the five-game playoff series with Nashville last season, Abdelkader had no goals and no assists.
Over the final 13 games of the regular season a year ago, Abdelkader failed to register a goal and had just one assist.
“I think he’s gotten way better here of late,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I think he looked like a guy who didn’t play in the lockout when he first came back. Big, heavy guys I think it takes longer. He’s a worker, honest, two-way guy.”
Adding it all up, including the playoffs, Abdelkader has gone scoreless over his last 41 games, collecting a total of two assists with a plus-minus rating of minus-15.
“You just do your due diligence each day and work in practice and just keep trying to get pucks to the net and making plays and hopefully it’ll go in,” Abdelkader said. “You can’t worry about that. You just play your game. You just want to try and get three shots on net each game. Obviously, pucks find their way through a lot of different ways. I’ve just got to keep doing the same thing.”
His last goal came at Nashville on March 10, 2012.
And since Todd Bertuzzi’s injury, he’s been playing on a line with Pavel Datsyuk.
“Playing with a guy like Pav, you’re going to get a lot of chances,” Abdelkader said. “He’s going to create a lot of space so hopefully, eventually, it’s just going to be one of those things where you get that first one it’ll open the flood gates.
“I feel good about a lot of the things I’m doing out there,” Abdelkader continued. “I want to keep following the puck in and maybe Pav will shoot one off me and that will get things going.”
On Monday, Tampa Bay’s Tom Pyatt was credited with a goal that went in of his face.
“You watch games and see how a lot of the goals go in, there are a lot of funny goals that go in,” Abdelkader said. “I saw one go off a guy’s face and go in last night. It’s funny. You have to keep going to the hard areas and eventually you get rewarded.”
Daniel Cleary has benefited a bit with his promotion to a line with Datsyuk. He has four goals and two assists over his last eight games and is a plus-2.
“Pavel Datsyuk can sit out six months and still be able to stick-handle in a phone booth,” Babcock said. “(Abdelkader) can’t. So confidence comes into play in that. Dan Cleary had nothing and then suddenly, boom, he gets going. Obviously, he’s doing a good job for us right now. He’s playing good minutes, getting a good opportunity. He’s got to keep plugging and doing good things.”
Abdelkader hasn’t been in this kind of scoring slump his entire career.
“I feel like I’m doing a lot of good things,” Abdelkader said. “It’s puck luck and the puck’s not going into the net. I’m playing with Pav, just keep grinding, working in the corners and getting him the puck as much as I can. I try to keep it simple. I think I can shoot the puck more than I have been. That’s what you strive to do, shoot it and go to the hard areas because that’s where a majority of the goals will go in.”
Abdelkader, who signed a four-year deal worth $1.8 million a season just before the lockout, is coming off a career high eight goals and 14 assists last season.
“You could look at it a couple ways,” said Babcock, when asked if he’d keep Abdelkader on the second line. “You could say Pavel and Z haven’t scored in three games, you can blame the wingers, or you can say there are times during the year you don’t score. They’ve been playing against good players and matched up against real good players and we’ve had an opportunity to win. In the last three games we’re 3-1-1 and things are going all right for our team, so let’s just keep going here.”