Absence for Wings’ Kronwall longer than he expected

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Niklas Kronwall

Sunrise, Florida – Niklas Kronwall hoped to return a bit sooner.

But, now, after arthroscopic left knee surgery on Jan. 19 and rehab, he’ll remain patient.

Kronwall wanted to be back for this current road trip – it was expected he’d miss 2-4 weeks. But now he isn’t able to come off the injured list until Feb. 14, since the Red Wings shifted him to the long-term list early this week.

“Maybe it was me being a little naïve,” said Kronwall, who had a similar procedure in 2010 around training camp and returned in approximately two weeks. “But this time, you add 300 or so games in a few years, it’s taking a little bit longer, unfortunately.”

Kronwall is on this road trip and was lightly kicking around a soccer ball Thursday with teammates after the morning skate. He thinks he’ll be skating this weekend, or early next week, with a chance to play in games just after Feb. 14.

“That all depends on the conditioning and how you feel once you get back on the ice,” Kronwall said. “And of course Blash (coach Jeff Blashill) is the one making the final call.

“Hopefully there are no setbacks. You get your legs under you and get your timing back and when you feel ready, Blash makes his decision.”

Wings, Lightning expect East race to stay tight

Kronwall, 35, has had a disappointing season with 17 points (three goals, 14 assists) in 45 games with a minus-10 rating. His mobility and decision-making have been areas of concern, but Kronwall refuses to blame the knee injury for his performance.

“I can’t say it did (have an impact),” Kronwall said.

The knee has remained problematic off and on since 2010 but began bothering Kronwall around mid-December. Instead of prolonging the situation, Kronwall and the team felt it was best to have the surgery now.

Kronwall was adamant about not missing important games later in the season or the playoffs.

“That’s the question we had -- whether we do it now or decide to wait,” Kronwall said. “You never know. If it gets to the point you have to do it (surgery) and all of a sudden it might be in late April and you’re missing the playoffs, and we didn’t want to do or take that chance. That’s why we decided to do it at this point.”

Feeling better

Riley Sheahan returned to the lineup Thursday after spending nearly the last week feeling sick.

Sheahan and his girlfriend went to Mexico during the All-Star break but he didn’t enjoy the trip.

“I’m feeling better,” Sheahan said. “But it definitely wasn’t fun.”

Sheahan replaced Teemu Pulkkinen, who was bumped into being a healthy scratch.

Pulkkinen is currently behind Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist on the depth chart when it comes to smallish, offensive-minded wings.

Two goalies needed

Goaltender Jimmy Howard got the start against Florida and Blashill said Howard will be needed the remainder of the season.

“Jimmy has been an elite goalie at different points in his career in the NHL,” Blashill said. “We’ve got lots of belief in Jimmy and you look at the schedule we face, you have to have two guys that can help you win hockey games.”

Heading into Thursday’s game, Howard hadn’t won since Dec. 3 and had gone six games without a victory.