DETROIT – Detroit Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader won’t change how he plays the game.
He’s just going to have to change how he delivers hits.
On Sunday, Abdelkader was handed a two-game suspension for his hit on Anaheim Ducks defenseman Toni Lydman in Game 3, Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena.
“As much as you can, even if you’re not trying to target the head, even if you’re trying to target the shoulder, you’ve got to really get low on the hits,” Abdelkader said Monday at Joe Louis Arena, addressing the media for the first time since the incident that occurred in Game 2. “You can’t get anywhere near the head. Anything close, obviously everything’s under a microscope. I’m still going to be physical, but you’ve got to go for the body, which I was trying to do.”
Abdelkader was assessed a five-minute charging penalty and a game misconduct on the play with five minutes to play in the second period on Saturday.
“Ever since I came into the league in the last short while, they’re really keeping an eye on big hits,” Abdelkader said. “You don’t see any big hits anymore through the neutral zone, through anywhere, really. Players are really concerned about making a hit in the game.
“The game’s so fast that one inch, one move by a player and you might hit his head and you’re going to be out for a while unfortunately,” Abdelkader added. “Obviously I agree 100-percent, we want to eliminate concussions from the game as much as possible. Hitting has always been a part of this game. The game’s so fast, guys are so big and strong and moving so fast, any split-second movement, even if you’re not trying to target a guy’s head, you might catch a piece of it. The game’s evolving and that’s the way it’s moving forward.”
Lydman was unable to play in Game 4 and Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau thinks it could be a lot longer.
“Without saying too much, I think it probably warrants it,” Ducks forward Bobby Ryan said. “I’m sure after seeing it, he probably realized it. Either way, you play on. I’ve been on the other side of it, too, and I appreciated it when guys could have said something and held back, so I’ll do the same.”
“He’s a big part of that line for a lot of reasons, primarily the forechecking, how he gets in on the puck,” Ryan continued. “I think he does an unbelievable job of getting to it and then finding a way to get it to them and then get to the net. He disrupts a lot of things. I don’t who will come in and play for him, but it’s tough shoes to fill. He’s a heck of a hockey player.”
Abdelkader is the third Wing to get suspended by the NHL since Brendan Shanahan began reviewing on-ice incidents.
Defenseman Kyle Quincey was suspended one game last season for a charging incident on Florida’s Tomas Kopecky where he left his feet on the play.
In 2011, defenseman Brendan Smith was suspended eight games, three of which were in the final three games of the preseason, for a check to the head of Chicago’s Ben Smith.
“I don’t mean to injure anyone, put anyone at harm,” Abdelkader said before taking questions. “I have respect for every one of the players in this hockey league. It’s a privilege that we get to play in the NHL. I play a hard game, I play physical. It’s a fast game. Things happen really fast out there. Like I said there was no intent to injure. It’s an unfortunate play.
“I’m going to still play my physical game, get in on the forecheck, finish checks, but I’ve got to be smart about it,” Abdelkader continued. “The speed of the game, it happens so fast. It’s unfortunate what happened.”
Abdelkader’s hearing lasted 45 minutes with the league and he didn’t want to discuss what when on during it.
“It’s a tough blow,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “It was a physical hit and it went from either a two, or a non-call, to a two-game suspension. I guess Brendan and the guys thought it was really bad and gave him two games.
“It’s tough, I really didn’t see that coming, but that’s what it is now, we can’t really say anything more about it,” Zetterberg added. “We just have to go out and play these two games without him.”