Wings’ Kronwall hits milestone despite injuries
Detroit — Lost in the shuffle of Friday’s game, somewhat, was a significant milestone for defenseman Niklas Kronwall.
Kronwall, who suffered through some bad luck injuries early in his career, played in game No. 800 in the loss to Washington.
Considering all Kronwall has gone through — and dealing with now, with a bone-on-bone left knee — 800 games is quite an achievement.
“Injuries are part of the game in any sport, and you just find a way to deal with it,” Kronwall said. “Regardless of what happens, you learn a little bit about yourself every time and regardless of what happen, you just try to do what you can to put yourself in a better spot for tomorrow.”
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With Kronwall still under contract this season and next, there’s been mild speculation he might retire before then, given the grind and the pain.
But Kronwall has every intention of playing to the completion of his contract.
“There’s been rougher times than others,” Kronwall said. “In saying that, at the end of the day, you just want to go back on the ice and try to do whatever you can.
“When that day comes when it just doesn’t work anymore, than you say that’s it, it’s been a fun run. But I’m not there yet.”
Kronwall broke a leg when he caught a rut during a pre-game skate in Los Angeles in 2003, then tore an ACL in an exhibition game in Colorado two seasons later — when he wasn’t even scheduled to play in that preseason game.
The wear and tear has left Kronwall’s knee bone-on-bone with little cartilage left.
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In an effort to relieve the pain Kronwall has tried stem cell procedures, attempting to find anything that will help.
“There’s a bunch of different treatments out there,” Kronwall said. “When you get to this point, you basically try everything.
“There’s a number of athletes in different sports that have tried different things and I’m not different. I’m just trying to find a way to stay in the game.
“It’s definitely something that is out there and it’s becoming more and more, I don’t know if popular is the word, there’s a lot of different things coming out that’s proven to work.”
The Red Wings’ coaching staff is monitoring Kronwall’s workload in practice, and they’re likely to be cautious with his games played later in the season, if necessary.
But right now, with Kronwall feeling good, coach Jeff Blashill is letting Kronwall play, no strings attached.
“He missed part of camp, so it’s a matter of just getting him back going to that high level that he finished at last year,” Blashill said. “He’s getting closer every day.”
With Vancouver in town Sunday it’s the return of forward Thomas Vanek, who made an impact last season with the Red Wings before being traded to Florida at the trade deadline.
Had the Red Wings been better positioned under the salary cap, the team would likely have tried to re-sign Vanek.
“One of the most offensively gifted players I’ve ever played with,” Kronwall said.
Vanek doesn’t possess game-breaking speed, but few players have his hockey instincts.
“You can talk about speed, and speed is great,” Blashill said. “But there’s a lot of ways to be successful. If I had one asset I could put on any player, for me, it would be the brain. Hockey smarts just make you way better, and his offensive hockey IQ is off the charts.”
CANUCKS AT RED WINGS
Faceoff: 7 p.m. Sunday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
Outlook: The Canucks (3-3-1) are 2-1-0 on a five-game road trip. … RW Derek Dorsett (4 goals) and LW Thomas Vanek (3 goals) are off to good starts.