Niklas Kronwall of the Detroit Red Wings lays on the ice after being hit by Cody McLeod of the Colorado Avalanche Thursday. Kronwall, who will miss tonight's game against the Phoenix Coyotes, was diagnosed with a mild concussion. (Doug Pensinger / Getty Images)
Glendale, Arizona — Considering he left his last game on a stretcher and is suffering from a mild concussion, defenseman Niklas Kronwall looked like he was ready to play Saturday while talking with the media.
Fresh off a 30-minute workout on the stationary bike, Kronwall said he was lucky, after getting checked into the end boards headfirst Thursday in Denver by forward Cody McLeod.
“I feel real good, actually, after the circumstances,” said Kronwall, who didn’t play Saturday against the Phoenix Coyotes, replaced by Brendan Smith. “No issues so far. So far, so good.
“It could have been a lot worse. So far I’m feeling very good, actually. I’m just looking forward to getting back on the ice again.”
The Red Wings are listing Kronwall as day to day. Kronwall is hopeful of returning at some point this week, if given clearance from the medical staff.
The Red Wings are off Sunday, but Kronwall said he may have been able to get back on the ice for practice if the Red Wings had an on-ice workout.
As for the hit by McLeod — who will have a hearing Monday with NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan — Kronwall believes he was at fault, too.
“I shouldn’t have put myself in that situation,” Kronwall said. “I know he’s a forechecker, one of their more physical guys, and he’s just trying to do his job. I put both of us in a bad spot.
“For some reason I thought he was closer to me than he was. I almost turned right into him. But that’s history. I’m feeling pretty good and looking forward to getting back on the ice with the guys.”
Kronwall lost consciousness for a few seconds after the collision with the end boards, but “after that I was back on track.”
What makes Kronwall optimistic he can return soon is the fact he’s had no issues with blurry vision or headaches, any symptoms at all.
Kronwall was hoping not to be carried out on a stretcher but understood the need for one.
“It just becomes more dramatic,” Kronwall said of the stretcher. “Looking back I know they did the right thing, but anytime you’re in that situation yourself you don’t want to worry people for no reason.
“Like I said, once I got back on track I felt fine. But they were just being precautionary and I’m happy for the job they were doing.”
McLeod reached out to Kronwall after the first period and apologized for the hit.
“He apologized and I told him I shouldn’t have put both of us in that spot, either,” Kronwall said. “I’m happy he reached out and I have no hard feelings.”
The NHL has been attempting to get rid of dangerous hits like McLeod’s but the incidents continue to happen.
Kronwall isn’t surprised, because of the speed and physicality of the game.
“I could have done a lot of things differently,” Kronwall said. “I shouldn’t have put myself in that spot in the first place. He’s coming in with a lot of speed, sure, but I did turn at the last second.
“It goes fast out there and it’s so easy to go back and slow it down, look at it in slow motion, and be very smart about things.
“But it’s hockey and everything is high pace and it goes fast out there. Guys will make some bad decisions out there sometimes.
“In my case, I ended up on a stretcher. But I’m feeling pretty good and looking to get back out there.”
Smith back in
Smith replaced Kronwall after being a healthy scratch the last four games.
His inconsistency on the defensive end landed him out of the lineup and he realizes it’s an area he must work on.
But Smith had a difficult return to the lineup in the 5-2 loss to Phoenix, with a team-worst minus-3 rating in 18 minutes, 39 seconds.
He said after the morning skate a more consistent effort defensively was important.
“I just have to go out there, play steady, compete hard, and play hard with and without the puck,” Smith said. “Those are the things coaches want to see. Play steady and safe and I’ll get myself back in the lineup.”
Said Babcock: “The way I look at it, the evaluation period is 82 games long, not (four) or however many games he’s played. I’d just be patient and keep watching. He’s (Smith) a good player.”
Goalie Jimmy Howard returned to the lineup Saturday after missing the last three games with a bruised left hand.
Howard made 28 saves and felt fine in net.
“I felt good, that’s the frustrating part,” Howard said. “I practiced hard and felt good and it’s disappointing when you feel that good and don’t get the outcome (you want).”
… Howard had no problem with referees stopping the play and waving off a Red Wings goal when Coyotes goalie Mike Smith went down with an apparent injury.
“It’s up to the ref’s discretion and I think they did make the right call,” Howard said. “When a goalie is down like that, it should be blown dead.”
... Mikael Samuelsson replaced Jordin Tootoo on the fourth line and had two shots on net and was minus-1 in 10:43.
… Babcock played Daniel Alfredsson with Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk but will likely break the line up for Monday’s game against San Jose.
“I have to spread it out because we don’t have enough other pieces going,” Babcock said.