Draper's youthful wings
What kind of workout do you do after practice? What kind of bike program do you have? Do you work out before or after practices? What are some tips for faceoffs?
Abdelkader, a leader at Michigan State just a couple of weeks ago, doesn't hesitate when asked about his role as a youngster in the Detroit Red Wings' locker room.
"This is an opportunity to be around these veterans," said Abdelkader. "The guys have been really supportive, really helpful."
When the Red Wings take the ice for Thursday's playoff-opener -- Game 1 against the Nashville Predators at Joe Louis Arena (7 p.m., FSN, Versus) -- Abdelkader will likely be on a forward line alongside Draper and second-year player Jiri Hudler. The trio practiced together Tuesday and unless someone like Mikael Samuelsson (groin) or Kirk Maltby (hamstring) returns, then the trio will likely remain together this week.
Abdelkader, a 21-year-old from Mona Shores, will be playing in his third NHL game. The 36-year-old Draper has three Stanley Cup rings.
The blending of youth and experience is part of the Red Wings' franchise success of the past decade.
"I know I'm playing with Abs and Huds, young kids," said Draper. "I just let them know if they need anything or are nervous, hey, just come to me. We can have fun with it, talk about it. Like I said, I've seen some of the greatest players handle unbelievable situations and we've come out on top. It was always a thrill to be alongside of those guys. Now with the situation that we're going into, leadership plays a big part. If I can do my part with that, then it's helping out with the hockey club."
Hudler has been in the Red Wings organization for nearly six years. Still, he's 24 years old and has just six playoff games of experience to his credit.
Although he hasn't often been Draper's linemate -- Hudler, Draper and Abdelkader have never played as a unit -- Hudler sits beside Draper in the Detroit locker room.
"We're fortunate we've got those kind of guys here and the history of this club," said Hudler. "I don't think other teams have guys like (Nicklas) Lidstrom or (Chris) Chelios or Draper or (Tomas) Holmstrom. It's always been a great hockey club and that's why. They just help us. Whatever you need, you can ask them. That's the kind of relationship you need."
Having more veterans and more playoff experience than the Nashville Predators is a part of this first-round series to which Detroit coach Mike Babcock is happy to point.
The Wings boss is, however, open enough to reveal that an edge in experience is a motivational tool.
"When I was a young coach and had none, I thought that experience was overrated," said Babcock. "Now after 20 years, I think experience is a great thing. I think the key is controlling what you believe in at the time that's right for you and being positive. … In this room, we like experience. In their room (Nashville), they're probably talking about youthful exuberance."