Durability not enough for Red Wings’ Niklas Kronwall
It’s probably not likely Las Vegas, or any bookie establishing this sort of action, would have accepted the bet because it was so unlikely.
But defenseman Niklas Kronwall, despite his chronic knee problems, has played in every game since missing training camp and the opening three games this season.
So, that’s 66 consecutive games played, with only the occasional off-day in practice, playing nearly 20 minutes per night, and continuing to put forth a gutty, workmanlike effort, a regular season of health and durability that not many would have bet happening.
For many, Kronwall’s ability to keep going and overlooking the pain has been rather impressive and surprising.
Kronwall, though, isn’t all that impressed with his durability.
“To be honest with you I haven’t really thought too much about it,” Kronwall said. “To me, it’s all about trying to play better. I haven’t been good enough.
“There’s been ups and down, no doubt about that.”
Kronwall has appeared in 66 games with 19 points (three goals, 16 assists) and a team-worst minus-17 plus-minus rating, while averaging 18 minutes 30 seconds per game
“At the end of the day I might look back and say it was fun that I got to play, but right now, when you’re in it, I (have to) make the most of it and I have to be be better than I have,” Kronwall said. “To stay in the lineup, yes, I’m happy about that.
“The play could have been a little bit better, no doubt.”
Kronwall always has been a player who has been honest to a fault, whether it’s his own performance or the team.
But, unquestionably, he’s been his own worst critic.
“I’d like to think there’s more there,” Kronwall said of his own season. “But I haven’t had too much time to think about it. With so many games, you’re just trying to focus on what you need to do to prepare yourself for the next game.”
There was mild speculation last summer Kronwall, 37, might retire before the end of his contract (summer of 2019) because of the persistent knee problems
Kronwall goes into the final season of his contract next year with a salary cap hit of $4.75 million, but an actual salary of $1.75 million.
But the fact Kronwall has been able to play as much as he has this season, plus the desire to fulfill his contract, makes it likely Kronwall will return next season.
“Right now all our focus is on what we we can do right now,” Kronwall said. “We’ll make the most of it this year and we’ll take it from there.”
There weren’t very many positives in Monday’s 5-3 loss in San Jose, but Henrik Zetterberg’s line (with Gustav Nyquist and Tyler Bertuzzi) supplied most of them.
Nyquist and Zetterberg each had a goal and assist, and Bertuzzi assisted on all three goals (Trevor Daley had the other goal, along with an assist Monday), as they produced all the Red Wings’ offense.
Nyquist ended an 11-game goal-scoring drought, while Zetterberg stopped a seven-game drought, while also taking over fifth place all-time in the Red Wings organization with 336 goals (moving past Ted Lindsay).
But it was Bertuzzi who received considerable notice, playing one of the best of the games since he was recalled from Grand Rapids in late December.
Bertuzzi was strong on the puck — not many were against San Jose — worked hard along the boards, and showed the grit at both ends of the ice that could serve him well in the years ahead.
Bertuzzi has seven points (all assists) in his last seven games.
“He’s coming as a player, I like him lots,” coach Jeff Blashill told Fox Sports Detroit afterward. “He has a real bright future ahead of him. As he gets quicker and stronger, he’s going to be a real good player. He has hockey sense and will and determination. He’s a real bright spot.”
The Red Wings could get forward Frans Nielsen (concussion symptoms) back for Thursday’s game in Los Angeles.
Nielsen has missed three games since being hit by Boston’s David Backes, which resulted in Backes earning a three-game suspension.
… Zetterberg’s two points Monday also gave him 950 in his career.