Grand Rapids Griffins Coach Ben Simon played Justin Abdelkader and Gemel Smith together even though he had reservations.
“I was concerned because you had two players who haven’t played a lot of hockey in a little bit,” Simon said. “That was a genuine concern. But I thought they were pretty consistent with their effort and play, both with and without the puck.”
The line of Abdelkader, Smith and Turner Elson gave the Griffins energy in the first period. They helped set up a goal. However, it wasn’t enough to prevent the Griffins from falling 4-3 in overtime to Toronto.
“It is makes it easy that they are really smart players,” Elson said of playing with Abdelkader and Smith. “They have been at the NHL for a long time. They are good players. Easy to play with. They talk a lot. It wasn’t hard to get into a rhythm with them.”
Abdelkader, 34, ended up +1 for the game with one shot on goal and a two-minute slashing penalty. He was also on the ice for Elson’s third period power-play goal. He said after his first game with the Griffins that he was a bit fatigued and a bit out of sync. Based on the reporting of this game, he is already starting to regain his timing.
Gemel Smith, who has 88 games of NHL experience, drew an assist on defenseman Jared McIsaac’s third goal of the season. He also was +1 with one shot on goal. The Red Wings hope that when he is ready he will put a charge into their fourth line.
McIsaac Posts 2-point Game
McIsaac’s ended up with a goal and an assist for his second multiple-point game of the season. He’s a 2018 second-round pick who is trying to get himself back on the right development path after two injury-plagued seasons.
Abdelkader, bought out by the Red Wings in 2020, is on a tryout contract with the hope of drawing interest from an NHL team. He hasn’t played since he injured his knee at last spring’s World Championships.
Gemel Smith, 27, is in Grand Rapids on a conditioning assignment. Givani Smith is his younger brother. The Red Wings claimed Smith on waivers from the Tampa Bay Lightning. He hadn’t played this season until he arrived in Grand Rapid. Both Smith and Abdelkader have played two games with the Griffins.