No promises were made to Justin Abdelkader when the former Detroit Red Wings forward agreed to a pro tryout with the AHL Grand Rapids Griffins. And he’s fine with that.
“Wherever that is, however it works out, we’ll see how it goes,” Abdelkader said. “I felt I could still play at a high level.”
Abdelkader is to make his Griffins debut on Saturday as Grand Rapids plays host to the Milwaukee Admirals.
Rehabbing from a knee injury suffered while playing for USA Hockey at the world championship, lately Abdelkader has been skating with the players of the USNTDP in Plymouth, Michigan.
UPDATE: The Griffins on Friday signed left wing Justin Abdelkader to a professional tryout. #GoGRG
— Grand Rapids Griffins (@griffinshockey) January 21, 2022
“I’ve been feeling really good the last couple weeks, getting good practices in there,” Abdelkader said. “Been in touch a little bit with (Grand Rapids coach) Ben (Simon) and some of the Detroit staff about the possibility of getting some games here and getting up to game speed. Really excited to get back.”
Abdelkader Bought Out By Red Wings
Bought out of his contract in 2020 after 13 seasons with the Red Wings, Justin Abdelkader still admits that decision stung his pride.
“It was definitely disappointing, but you’ve got to move on,” Abdelkader said. “It opens some new doors.”
Grand Rapids coach Ben Simon got his chance to run an NHL bench earlier this season. He was filling in for Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill while Blashill was stricken with COVID-19. Simon understands the drive that Abdelkader possesses to get back to the show. At the same time, he recognizes all that his young players can learn from someone who’s played in 739 NHL games.
Muskegon native Justin Abdelkader signed a PTO with @griffinshockey today, nearly 12 years after his last game in Grand Rapids. @justinabss told me this past summer he wanted another shot at the @NHL. Could that process begin Saturday night? We’ll have the game, live on WXSP-TV. pic.twitter.com/iBOcgn6aK5
— Larry Figurski (@larryfigurski) January 21, 2022
“We saw him (Friday) at practice and he looks like he’s moving pretty well,” Simon said. “We’re going to give him an opportunity to show what he’s got. It’s a win-win for everyone involved to have a guy like that around our younger players, to learn from him, even if it’s for a short period of time.
“We’re telling these kids to be sponges, watch the way he handles himself. On the ice, it’s to be determined. You can’t expect a ton, he hasn’t played in a while. He’s taken care of his body and fought hard to put himself in the position he’s in. We’re happy to give him the opportunity.”