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.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.