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Days off a strange change for Wings’ Niklas Kronwall

Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
Niklas Kronwall

Detroit – Detroit Red Wings veteran defenseman Niklas Kronwall is adjusting to a new experience.

Kronwall has prided himself throughout his career to staying in the lineup and playing through pain.

But his aching left knee is cutting into his durability.

The Red Wings are managing Kronwall’s playing schedule this season – he didn’t play Saturday against Montreal – giving him games off when the schedule lines up so Kronwall has a few days off the ice.

Kronwall, 35, has missed two games in that kind of arrangement since he returned Nov. 4 to the lineup.

Not being able to play every game, or participate in every practice, is a strange feeling.

“More mental than anything,” Kronwall said after Tuesday’s morning skate, ahead of the home game against Dallas. “It always used to be: Do anything to play. Now, I get it, it’s probably the right thing to do, but you’ve had the same mindset for your whole career and now it’s different.

“I’m still working with it.”

 “He’s a warrior and he wants to play but he understands the big picture,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “I’m sure he didn’t like hearing from me the other day he wasn’t going to play. But my job is to make sure we’re putting our guys in the best position possible, and long-term and short-term that was the right decision.”

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Kronwall does understand the necessity of resting his knee, but it does frustrate him.

“Everyone is looking out for my own good and health down the road and down the stretch this year, and looking ahead after that, but it’s different for sure,” Kronwall said.

For the remainder of this season, Kronwall said communication between himself and the coaches and trainers will be crucial, as to when Kronwall should play.

“It’s been a real good combination so far,” Kronwall said. “Hopefully it stays that way as we move along.”

Build on last game

Kronwall’s defensive partner for Tuesday’s game against Dallas was to be Xavier Ouellet, who remained in the lineup partly due to Brendan Smith (knee) injuring himself against Montreal.

Ouellet played more than 16 minutes against Montreal in his first game since Nov. 2.

Blashill liked the safe, sound game Ouellet played.

“Continue on what he did last game,” said Blashill, of what his expectations for Ouellet were going forward. “That’s do a real good job of managing the puck and have poise with the puck and make plays when there are plays to be made.

“When he plays his best, that’s what he does, and defend and gap up real well. He’s a good all-around player.”

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The only change in the lineup was Steve Ott coming back in, replacing Drew Miller on the fourth line.

… The Red Wings have spent more time in the opposing team’s zone the last several games, which was something Blashill wanted to see.

“When we’ve got the puck, we’ve held on to it better,” Blashill said. “We were turning the puck over too fast the other way. It’s something we’ve talked about – trying to spend more time in the other team’s end. Ultimately that’s the best offense and defense.”

Twitter @tkulfan