Red Wings' Niklas Kronwall hits ice for first time in preseason

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall

Detroit — Niklas Kronwall had been waiting and Friday he finally got his chance.

Kronwall has been held back from practicing since the start of last week’s training camp because of back spasms that flared up the morning of the first workout.

But Friday Kronwall was back on the ice for the first time this season, getting into his first practice with teammates at Little Caesars Arena.

“Felt pretty good,” said Kronwall, who will not play in Saturday’s LCA debut preseason game against Boston. “I’m definitely getting there. I have to get the legs going.”

Kronwall has a chronic knee injury that limited him during last year’s preseason.

But Kronwall insists the knee feels fine this time around, and this was back problem was an unexpected issue that isn’t — and shouldn’t — be a concern.

“The knee has been feeling pretty good for a while,” Kronwall said. “The knee is feeling pretty good, a lot better (than it was last year). We changed a few things over the summer (training wise) and it’s been feeling pretty good.

“It’s been more of a back thing but it’s feeling a lot better now. It’s nice to be skating with the guys and taking another step.”
Kronwall is hopeful of getting into one or two exhibition games, before the regular season begins Oct. 5 against Minnesota.

Kronwall doesn't anticipate having to sit out any games or taking on a decreased workload. In fact, Kronwall felt better the second half of last season when not sitting out games or practices.

“I hope not, it hasn’t crossed my mind yet anyway,” said Kronwall, of playing less. “I’m hoping once the season starts and everything is up and running, I’ll take the approach like any other season.

“For whatever reason that certainly was the case (knee felt better with more work). It felt more comfortable and it’s been like that. As long as I’ve been doing something the whole time, it’s been feeling better than not doing anything. That doesn’t seem to work very good.”

Kronwall is hoping for a bounce back season for himself and the team.

“Last season, not a lot of things went the way I wanted for myself or the team,” Kronwall said. “So there’s a lot of guys who feel like they want to get back out there and get after it and redeem themselves.”

Exciting opener

Saturday’s preseason home opener against Boston isn’t going to be your typical opener.

The first game at Little Caesars Arena will be exciting for everyone involved.

“We’re finally excited to get to play at home,” said goaltender Jimmy Howard, who’ll get the start. “It’s really great to see everything come together. I’m really excited (Saturday) to see the place filled. It’s time for us to start playing together as a team and getting out there and getting a feel for each other again.”

Said forward Anthony Mantha: “It’s going to be fun. I can’t wait to hear the noise and seeing how excited the fans are going to be. The atmosphere will be different and it’s just going to be exciting to play here.”

Coach Jeff Blashill will dress a full, veteran roster as he’s capable of.

“I’m going to give guys who’ve been around here a chance to play in it,” Bashill said. “Because it is going to be more than a normal exhibition game. The regular season opener will be awesome, but this will be a neat thing to be part of, too.”

Clipped Wings

Blashill said forwards Henrik Zetterberg (neck), Justin Abdelkader (groin) and Tyler Bertuzzi (mid-body) will not be available, along with Kronwall.

Zetterberg developed a “kink” in his neck that will keep him out.

“It’s not a big deal, it’s a minor thing, but we’ll hold him out,” Blashill said.

The main issue could be Bertuzzi, who was seeing a doctor Friday. Blashill said the team would have more information Saturday, “whether it’s a minor thing or not."

Ready to go

Jonathan Ericsson played in his first game Thursday since getting his wrist broken on a hit Feb. 9 by Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom.

Ericsson is eager to get back in the rhythm of playing.

“It’s been a long process but it’s feeling pretty good,” Ericsson said.

Ericsson didn’t begin skating until August, as he was rehabbing both the wrist and a chronic hip ailment.

The injuries compounded what was a difficult season both personally and for the Red Wings, who failed to make the playoffs.

“It was frustrating obviously how the season went overall,” Ericsson said. “Very disappointing. But we have a very new, fresh start so it’s going to be fun.

“The new building, everyone is looking forward to it, how nice it is. We pretty much have the same team as last year, there not many additions or changes.

“We’re going to do better this year. We have to find that feeling where we know we can win every game, even when we’re down a goal.”

Bruins at Red Wings

Faceoff: 7 p.m. Saturday, Little Caesars Arena

TV/radio: FSD Plus/1270 AM

Notable: This is the first preseason game at Little Caesars Arena…The Red Wings will dress a veteran roster, minus F Henrik Zetterberg (neck), F Justin Abdelkader (groin), D Niklas Kronwall (back) and F Tyler Bertuzzi (mid-body) … G Jimmy Howard will start.