The Malik Report
by Paul on 08/10/14 at 07:55 AM ET
from Ansar Khan of Mlive,
2014-15 outlook: Abdelkader likely will start the season on the top line with Pavel Datsyuk and possibly Henrik Zetterberg. Coach Mike Babcock likes having a "heavy body" on each line, someone to provide a physical presence, go to the net and retrieve pucks. Abdelkader has filled this role for Datsyuk much of the past two seasons as the guy who "pulls the piano." It hasn't translated into an offensive boost but the club has been satisfied with the results. Abdelkader should continue playing a net-front role on the power play, especially since Todd Bertuzzi is gone. His role on the penalty kill has diminished the past two seasons (from 1:25 short-handed time per game in 2011-12 to 38 seconds last season), in part due to more power-play time, but he'll continue to see some PK duty. Abdelkader brings a different dimension for a team that has a lot of smaller forwards. He provides a much-needed abrasive element and has the ability to agitate and get under opponents' skin. This is a team that needs to be harder to play against. Abdelkader made strides in reducing bad penalties, something that plagued him earlier in his career. A good skater who plays with pace, he has settled in as a winger but can play center if needed.
Key question: Should Abdelkader continue playing on a top-two line or should he be playing on a checking line?
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