Wings’ Niklas Kronwall probably not ready to start season

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Niklas Kronwall

Grosse Pointe Woods – The Red Wings begin the regular season Thursday in Tampa Bay, but Niklas Kronwall probably won’t be ready.

Kronwall has been limited because of left knee pain.

Kronwall removed himself from Sweden’s World Cup of Hockey roster, hasn’t played in any exhibition games, and has only recently begun some light skating and practicing.

“There’s a chance he may not start the year, without question,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “He’ll practice a little bit today, but there’s a chance he might not be ready.”

Kronwall, 35, missed about a month last season when he had arthroscopic surgery and it was hoped rest and rehabilitation would help.

But the discomfort has continued, and Kronwall has said during training camp he’ll have to learn to manage the pain while playing.

With Kronwall likely unavailable to start the season, the Red Wings are likely to keep eight defenseman on the roster (including Kronwall).

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That means Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul, both of whom are no longer waiver-exempt and would be eligible to be selected by another team, could start the season with the Red Wings.

Ouellet and Sproul would appear to have the slight edge over defensemen Nick Jensen (who is also no longer waiver-exempt), Robbie Russo and Dan Renouf.

Blashill wouldn’t tip his hand as to how the final roster would look.

“If you have two games to watch, let’s watch two more games,” Blashill said.

The Wings close the preseason with a home-and-home set with the Maple Leafs – Friday at Toronto and Saturday in Detroit.

Blashill said Henrik Zetterberg (knee) is on track to start the regular season, especially if he plays Saturday in the exhibition finale.

Teemu Pulkkinen, who just returned to action after offseason shoulder surgery, might need more time to be ready.

Twitter @tkulfan