The Afternoon Shift – Nov. 4

Justin Abdelkader and teammates celebrate his Nov. 3 goal at Calgary/Photo by Getty Images

Recently recovered from a rib injury that sidelined him for Detroit’s first eight games, Justin Abdelkader made his 2010-11 debut on Saturday and has created something every hockey coach loves: competition for lineup spots.

Due to Kris Draper’s long-term injury and the realities of the salary cap, the Red Wings did not have a forward sit out as a healthy scratch until game nine, when Abdelkader dressed in place of a fellow former Griffin, Jiri Hudler.

While Detroit has certainly purred right along in this season’s early going regardless of who’s been taking shifts, it can serve as a player’s wake-up call and an impetus for self improvement when he can no longer take playing for granted. That’s what the Red Wings are hoping for in regards to Hudler, whose return to North America following a year in the KHL has had a rocky start: eight games with just three assists, one hit, 16 shots and a minus-six rating to show for it.

Anything that might help Hudler quickly find his form from two seasons ago, when he posted career highs of 23 goals and 57 points in 82 games, is on the table. And considering that he missed all of a single game with Detroit over the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons combined, sitting has surely grabbed his attention.

By contrast, Abdelkader has made the most of his limited opportunities thus far, despite averaging only 9:38 in ice time to Hudler’s 13:00. He tallied the game-winner in last night’s 2-1 win at Calgary and has made an impact all over the ice, recording six hits, six shots and a plus-two rating.

Not only did a little competition never hurt anyone, but in this case, it can only make the Wings better.

Today’s Griffins links:

AHL/opponent links:

 Alumni news and notes:

Video: NHL alumni goals

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