Enforcer in training: Wings' Abdelkader taking boxing classes

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justinabdelkader1.jpgA player’s off-season workouts are generally pretty intense. Depending on the type of role you play or the style of play a guy has can depict what it is exactly that they’ll do to make themselves better. For a player like Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader, honing his skills as an agitating and physical forward sometimes means having to do things a bit out of the norm to prepare for a season, like taking boxing classes as Mlive.com’s Ansar Khan tells us.

He’s not trying to become a heavyweight, he just wants to be better prepared to fight in 2010-11, which will be his first full NHL season. Playing an abrasive style of hockey that can agitate opponents, Abdelkader will be challenged occasionally, especially on a team that lacks an enforcer and does not have many players who fight.

“It’s a good upper-body workout and, at the same time, you’re getting a few pointers,” Abdelkader said. “You learn technique, how to throw proper punches, when to be aggressive, when not to be aggressive.

“If you’re going to fight, you’ve got to know how to fight. I’m not going to go around looking for it, but if it’s going to happen, you’ve got to prepare yourself for it.”

While much hasn’t been really seen of Abdelkader’s sandpaper-like ways on the ice, provided he’s playing a bigger role in Detroit next year it’ll become more evident. In 2008-2009 with Grand Rapids in the AHL he logged 102 penalty minutes in 78 games with the Griffins. His transformation from what he did in college with Michigan State to the pros is intriguing.

Abdelkader scored one of the biggest goals in Michigan State history scoring the National Championship-clinching goal against Boston College in 2007. Going from being a scorer in college to an agitator in the pros isn’t uncommon as sometimes guys will adapt their game any way they can to make sure they stay in the game. For the Red Wings, having a regular skater that can contribute, help settle scores and stir things up is something they really haven’t had since the days of Martin Lapointe and Darren McCarty.

Some players have come and gone briefly filling that need as it arose (Dallas Drake for instance), but having one guy do that year in and year out is something else entirely. Whether or not the “Afrogator” can handle the workload remains to be seen, but his tenacity is certainly something working out to his benefit.

Devils unveil ‘The Salute’ statue in honor of Martin Brodeur

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The New Jersey Devils on Monday unveiled ‘The Salute’ — a statue paying homage to one of the greatest goalies in NHL history, Martin Brodeur, who will have his No. 30 uniform retired Tuesday at Prudential Center.

“Looking at the pictures of my career and some of the events that meant a lot to me, I always saluted the fans,” Brodeur, a three-time Stanley Cup winner with the Devils, told the Fire and Ice blog.

“That picture, at different times, in different jerseys, actually, like with Team Canada, it all came to that same pose.”

More on the statue from the Devils:

The 900-pound bronze statue was created by renowned sculpture and artist Jon Krawczyk, who worked with Brodeur on the design. Krawczyk, a Boonton Township, N.J. native and lifelong Devils fan, who also created the hockey statue on Championship Plaza outside of Prudential Center, personally drove “The Salute” from his Malibu, Cali. studio to the arena late last week.

Video: Panthers furious after Abdelkader ‘cheap shot’ hit on Barkov

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The Florida Panthers are fuming after their skilled 20-year-old forward Aleksander Barkov left Monday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings following a hit from Justin Abdelkader.

Abdelkader caught Barkov with a hard hit near the goal line as the Panthers player tried to move the puck up ice early in the second period.

The only call on the play was to Panthers’ blue liner Alex Petrovic for the retaliatory cross check on Abdelkader. Barkov left the game and didn’t return with an upper-body injury.

Members of the Panthers irate with the hit, and the fact there was no call.

“It was a cheap hit, I don’t know how the ref didn’t call it,” Nick Bjugstad told the Miami Herald. “It was frustrating, the whole bench felt that way. We’re not happy with it. It turned the game around. Barkov has tough shoes to fill. It looked pretty serious. We’ll see how the league handles it and I think they will. I just don’t know how it wasn’t handled on the ice.”

“You hate to lose your top player, but that’s part of the game,” added Panthers’ head coach Gerard Gallant.

“We’re disappointed to lose him. I thought it was a cheap shot but the referees didn’t see it that way and explained to me it was a clean check. It’s tough. It happens quick and we get to see the replay. I think it’ll be looked at. [Abdelkader] left his feet a little and got him in the jaw.”

The Panthers gave up three goals in the third period in a 3-0 loss to the Red Wings.

Penguins thump the Ducks as Crosby’s hot streak continues

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In a meeting between two clubs enjoying hot streaks and their own subsequent climbs through the standings, the Pittsburgh Penguins bested the Anaheim Ducks courtesy another dominant Sidney Crosby performance on Monday.

After that slow start, Crosby has put together a growing number of dominant performances of late.

The latest, a four-point night, helped the Penguins to a 6-2 final over the Ducks, stopping Anaheim’s winning streak at six games.

— He extended his scoring streak to a career best seven games, and did so with two beauty goals versus the Ducks.

— From Dec. 18 to Feb. 8, he’s appeared in 21 games. In that span, he’s recorded 34 points.

— Crosby is now into the top five among NHL players in points, with 53 in 51 games this season.

He wasn’t the only Pittsburgh player to have a big night. Keep in mind, Evgeni Malkin wasn’t even in the lineup due to a lower-body injury.

Ten different Penguins players recorded points. In addition to Crosby, Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang had multi-point efforts, and four players — Kunitz, Crosby, Olli Maatta and Patric Hornqvist — were plus-four.

The Penguins now move into third in the Metropolitan Division, while the New York Islanders slip into the first Wild Card spot in the East. Pittsburgh’s lead over the Islanders, however, is only one point.

The Islanders also have a game in hand.

Panthers’ Barkov (upper-body injury) leaves game versus Red Wings

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The Florida Panthers will be without Aleksander Barkov for the remainder of their game versus the Detroit Red Wings on Monday.

As per multiple reports, Barkov will not return due to an upper-body injury suffered after a hit from Justin Abdelkader early in the second period.

Abdelkader wasn’t given a penalty on the play. Barkov didn’t play another shift after that hit.

In 42 games this season, the 20-year-old Barkov has 16 goals and 35 points.