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IN THE D: Abdelkader Sets Sights on Even Bigger Role with Wings

By: Ken Cross | September 18, 2015

Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader enjoyed a career year during the 2014-15 season.

For just the first time in his NHL career, Abdelkader netted over 20 goals. His season total of 23 goals was more than double his previous career-high (10), and he earned a total of 44 points.

Abdelkader also netted eight power-play goals and eight game-winning goals.

Heading into the 2015-16 season under new coach Jeff Blashill, Abdelkader hopes to improve even more and prove last year’s numbers were not a fluke.

“Obviously, I had a really good year,” Abdelkader said after one of the Wings’ informal skates. “Confidence has grown each and every year, and I think I just gotta keep doing things right to put myself in a position to succeed: working hard every day, working on individual skillset during practice and bringing that during the game.”

Now that he’s reached the 20-goal plateau, Abdelkader knows he’ll be expected to repeat that level of production each season. Not only will it be important to build off last year, but Abdelkader will also work hard as a leader on and off the ice as his role continues to expand within the Red Wings organization.

“I think, especially as I’ve gotten older, I’ve taken on a bigger role with this team, even in the locker room leadership-wise,” Abdelkader said. “I look forward to that, and obviously expectations will be higher, but I think all I can do is work hard, try to put myself in the same position and see what happens.”

Abdelkader is in the final year of his contract and could be an unrestricted free agent next summer. The Muskegon native went to Michigan State University and was the Wings’ second-round draft pick in 2005, so there’s no doubt that he’d love to continue playing for his hometown team.

Nothing is guaranteed, though.

Abdelkader said business talks have not started yet, but he doesn’t think there’s a lot of pressure on his shoulders ahead of the season.

“I think I proved last year, even years past, what type of player I am and what I can bring to the team,” Abdelkader said. “I just want to help the team in any way I’m capable of, and the business side will take care of itself.”