Detroit – It’s only fitting, isn’t it, that Niklas Kronwall returns to the lineup the evening the Red Wings honor his good friend and Hall of Fame teammate Nicklas Lidstrom?
Kronwall, who’ll play Tuesday night against Columbus, said it’s a nice coincidence.
“It was a huge honor to just play with him,” said Kronwall, who had arthroscopic knee surgery Jan. 19 and has missed the last 15 games. “It’s nice to have him back in town again.”
Kronwall will be paired with Alexey Marchenko on defense, with Xavier Ouellet becoming a healthy scratch.
Kronwall, 35, has three goals and 14 assists in 45 games this season. He will have to gain conditioning and timing in the days ahead.
“Those are the two things, it doesn’t matter how much you skate on your own, once the game gets going, it’s all game-type situations and it’s hard to get back and it’s hard assimilate that in practice,” Kronwall said.
Just being around the locker room, back on the ice and preparing for games, is something Kronwall missed dearly.
“Skate with the guys and really, just coming down here every day playing games, that’s why we play this game,” Kronwall said.
Expect Kronwall to be brought along slowly the first few games.
“The biggest thing is to keep your expectations in check,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “He was playing really well when he had the surgery. But we can’t expect him to hop on the ice today and be quite as good as he was where he left off because of the time off.
“That’s the reality of it. There’s rust, whether it’s physical or mental.”
Blashill shuffled the top two lines, with Gustav Nyquist joining Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk while Tomas Tatar skated with Dylan Larkin and Justin Abdelkader.
Both Tatar and Nyquist are slumping offensively. Blashill thinks these changes could jumpstart both, while creating balance among the four lines.
“Nyquist and Tats have certainly proven to have more offense in them, so we want to see if there’s other combinations so we can keep Pavel and Z playing at the level they’re playing at, and getting a little more from other people,” Blashill said. “You want to be able to score a little more without losing your defensive integrity. The last two games we did a good job defensively. We want to maintain that defense and still get a little more offense.”
With Kronwall being activated, defenseman Jakub Kindl was reassigned to Grand Rapids. Kindl was also placed on waivers in an attempt to clear salary cap space before Monday’s trade deadline. He can be claimed up to noon Wednesday.
But chances are slim Kindl will be picked up by another team, given he cleared waivers in January.
Goaltender Petr Mrazek returned to the starting lineup against the Blue Jackets.
… Jonathan Ericsson (lower body) skated Tuesday morning but was to miss his fifth consecutive game. Blashill said Ericsson is getting close to rejoining the lineup.
… Tomas Jurco was a healthy scratch for a second consecutive game.