Detroit — The Red Wings were dealt one big blow Tuesday — with another one’s impact much more severe than expected.
Will the one-two combination stagger them?
That remains to be seen, but losing defenseman Niklas Kronwall for 2-to-4 weeks after arthroscopic surgery Tuesday and learning forward Drew Miller will be out 4-to-6 months after major reconstructive knee surgery on his ACL along with having a torn meniscus repaired, are major losses.
Kronwall had been playing with knee pain for much of the season and this surgery was planned with next week’s All-Star break in mind.
Miller hurt himself in the first period of the Jan. 10 game in Anaheim but was expected to miss about a month with the meniscus.
A further evaluation late last week indiciated the severity of the injury included the damaged ACL.
The Red Wings have been able to overcome the season-long absence of Johan Franzen (concussion) and significant time lost to Kyle Quincey (ankle surgery) and Pavel Datsyuk (ankle surgery) — and they’ll be tested again.
“The depth of your organization gets tested throughout the season with injuries,” Blashill said. “That’s been a real strength of the Red Wings for a number of years.”
With Kronwall unavailable, Alexey Marchenko returns to the lineup after being a healthy scratch the last two games.
Having Quincey round into game shape now after being back the last three games also helps considerably.
“We’ve got great confidence in the six guys who are dressed,” Blashill said. “Marchey knew he’d come in and this was something we had talked about. Everyone noted he had played real well when he was in.
“His job wasn’t to agree or disagree with my decision but be ready to play when he comes back in. I expect Marchey to be real good (Wednesday against St. Louis).”
Kronwall had played in all 45 games this season with 17 points (three goals, 14 assists) and a minus-10 rating, while playing more than 22 minutes per game.
“It was something that had been planned for a little bit here,” said Blashill, noting the All-Star break is next week and figured into the timing of the surgery. “We utilized the All-Star break within that period and to minimize the games he’ll miss.
“He’s had a lingering pain issue. He had a similar scope done a number of years ago. Our worries were we wanted to relieve some of the pain, and more importantly we wanted to make sure it was something that wouldn’t creep up in three weeks and be a bigger deal.
“It’s been going on for most of the year. We talked about what the best approach is. … Let’s take care of it now and miss minimal games as we can.”
The surgery occurred as Kronwall appeared to be playing some of his most consistent of a disappointing season, including scoring the lone goal in Sunday’s 2-1 shootout loss to Philadelphia.
“Kroner has played great in the last little bit,” Blashill said. “The timing that way is unfortunate. But I’ve been real happy with Kroner’s play of late.”
Miller was hurt just two games after returning from a broken jaw.
Miller played 28 games this season, with one goal and one assist and a minus-5 rating.
One of the NHL’s best penalty killers, Miller’s absence could be felt on the Red Wings’ 20th-ranked penalty kill.
“He’s an elite penalty killer, there’s no question,” Blashill said. “That doesn’t mean our penalty kill can’t do a great job. We’ve been using Justin Abdelkader more, we’ve been starting to use Dylan Larkin more, (Tomas) Jurco at different times has gotten reps on the PK in practice.
“We’re going to have to find a mix of guys that can get it done. But it’s up to us. One guy can’t kill your team, one guy can’t kill one of your specialty teams. You’ve got to be on that as an organization and we’ve got guys to do it.
“Now, we’ve got to execute and do it.”