Abdelkader avoids injury, helps Wings win on NYE

By Michael Caples -

DETROIT – On the final day of 2011, Justin Abdelkader got a little bit of sweet revenge.

The Wings’ forward was limited to only three shifts in the first period after taking a shoulder to the head from St. Louis defenseman and Ann Arbor native Ian Cole.

Yet the Muskegon native returned in the second period, and notched his fourth goal of the season 8:45 into the middle frame. It was the second of three goals for the Wings, who would end up posting a 3-0 win over the Blues in their annual New Year’s Eve game at Joe Louis Arena.

“Obviously it’s good to come back from a hit like that,” said Abdelkader, the former Michigan State Spartan. “I felt good right off the bat, in the second period, it was good to come back and help the team out.”

The Wings have now won 12 straight home games.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Abdelkader said. “We’re playing well at home, it’s a lot of fun, the fans have been great and have been into it, and hopefully we can keep it rolling. Howie’s been playing really well too. I think as a team, defensively, we’re committed to defense, and it’s great confidence for us.”

Johan Franzen opened the scoring for the Wings, skating through numerous Blues before deking goaltender Brian Elliott and firing in his 15th goal of the season. Jiri Hudler added the third goal for the Wings, who are now 24-13-1 on the season.

Jimmy Howard picked up his fourth shutout of the season in the victory.

The two teams battled to a scoreless tie in the first period, but it could have been different if not for Jimmy Howard. The Wings’ goaltender made perhaps the best save of his season when he denied Matt D’Agostini halfway through the first. The Blues’ forward had Howard down and sprawling while he cut to the left post, but Howard was able to stretch out and snare what seemed to be a sure goal.

It was only one of 31 saves for the Wings’ goaltender, but it might have been the most important of the game. Howard recorded his 23rd win of the season – still good for the highest win total in the NHL.