Wings' Hicketts making his presence felt in preseason

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Defenseman Joe Hicketts finished with five hits and five shots in Friday's preseason loss.

Detroit — Once you let the comparison sink in, you definitely see it.

Coach Jeff Blashill coached Livonia native Torey Krug (Boston Bruins) in junior hockey and sees a lot of Krug in Red Wings defenseman Joe Hicketts.

“Torey skates a little better but Torey’s got a similar kind of personality,” Blashill said. “He’s got a ton of moxie, tons of confidence. Torey’s a gamer who wants the puck on his stick when the game is on the line.”

Hicketts is likely headed back to Grand Rapids before Tuesday’s day to turn in final rosters, although injuries to Niklas Kronwall (groin) and Nick Jensen (right thumb) leave the door open somewhat.

The smallish Hicketts (5-foot-8, 180 pounds) has looked as if he belongs from the start of the preseason.

In Friday’s 4-2 preseason loss to Toronto, Hicketts played just over 20 minutes and led the Red Wings with five shots and five hits.

One of those hits was delivered late on the Maple Leafs’ Jake Gardiner, which James van Riemsdyk retaliated and earned an unsportsmanlike penalty.

“Joe wants to make an impact every single time he’s on the ice,” Blashill said.

Hicketts enjoys throwing his body around and getting under the skin of irritated opponents.

“I’ve not been the biggest hitter but I like throwing the body around,” Hicketts said. “It engages me both mentally and physically. If you can give the team a spark, it kind of helped us at the end (earned a power play).”

He understands the odds are against him, but Hicketts feels he’s shown he’s NHL ready.

“I’ve done everything in my power over the last couple of years of junior, last year in the American League (with Grand Rapids), and over the summer to prepare myself to get to the next level," he said.

“I hope it’s been enough to keep me here.”

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Injured defensemen

After playing his first preseason game Thursday — Kronwall had been out with back spasms all camp — Kronwall was knocked out of Saturday’s game because of groin issues.

Whether Kronwall will be ready for Thursday’s regular-season opener will be determined early in the week.

“He’s going to have to practice Tuesday in order to be ready Thursday, in my mind,” Blashill said. “If he’s not practicing Tuesday, you guys (reporters) will have your answer.”

Jensen, too, is unclear for Thursday’s opener.

“I expect him to be ready,” Blashill said. “We’re being very precautionary right now. But I can’t guarantee it.”

Roster cutdown 

As the Red Wings get down to the final roster, there appear to be one or two roster spots available among the forwards.

Martin Frk appears to have clinched a spot, working well with Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha on a line  and restricted free agent Andreas Athanasiou still unsigned and not in camp.

With Tyler Bertuzzi (wrist) out for the next month, David Booth and P.A. Parenteau  both on professional tryouts  Luke Witkowski and Ben Street all are battling for an available spot.

The final roster must be set by Tuesday at 5 p.m.


Babcock impressed

Former Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, now in Toronto, was impressed by his first look at Little Caesars Arena.

“Outstanding,” Babcock said. “I came down to a funeral at the end of the summer, right close, and so I had a chance to look around. I never came in the building, but when we play here during the year and come in for a morning skate, a guy will get a chance to look around

“But, it looks spectacular.”

Babcock also praised former owner Mike Ilitch.

“Mr. I, anyone who knows him, everything he did in his life was first class, and it was all about Detroit, making Detroit a better place to live," he said

“I’m glad to see a lot of people from the old building over here working. That’s a real positive, as well.

“And, the town’s being revitalized. So, between them and Dan Gilbert they’ve done an unbelievable job.”