Detroit Red wings coach Mike Babcock decided to enter the 2013-14 campaign with Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk playing together, but the big question going into training camp was who would round out that first line.
The initial idea was to give different players a chance to compete for that spot, but so far Justin Abdelkader has taken a clear lead. For example, during Sunday’s scrimmage Abdelkader had a goal and two assists while playing alongside the Red Wings’ stars, according to the Detroit News.
Getting points on a line with Zetterberg and Datsyuk might not sound like a hard task, but Zetterberg would argue otherwise because when he plays with Datsyuk, their other linemate doesn’t usually get the puck much.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock agrees that Abdelkader’s strong showing so far in the preseason isn’t merely the byproduct of him playing on the top line.
“I think confidence is the hardest thing to get,” Babcock told the Detroit Free Press. “You’ve got to earn it. No one can give it to you. He’s an every-dayer. He took advantage of an opportunity last year, and now he’s making more plays for those guys and he understands that when they give him the puck, to give it back to them.”
Babcock hasn’t ruled out the possibility of giving Daniel Cleary a shot on the first line, but for now he feels that Abdelkader is doing what’s needed to secure his current role.