Perseverance of Red Wings' Kronwall key to Masterton nomination

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Niklas Kronwall

Niklas Kronwall is the grizzled veteran hockey player personified.

Bad knees, aching bones and joints, no longer has the face of a 20-year-old just breaking into the NHL.

But Kronwall just keeps going and going.

For Kronwall’s perseverance and dedication to the game, his leadership and professionalism, the Detroit chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association has nominated Kronwall for the Bill Masterton Trophy.

The Masterton Trophy is awarded each year to the NHL player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to ice hockey.”

All 31 chapters nominate one player, with the winner announced in June at the NHL Awards Show.

Kronwall, 38, has played in 73 of the 76 Wings’ games this season – somewhat surprising considering his bothersome left knee.

Kronwall had stem cell therapy two summers ago to alleviate the pain in the knee.

Kronwall tore the ACL in that left knee in 2005 in Colorado playing in an exhibition game he wasn’t even originally scheduled to be playing in.

In 2003, Kronwall suffered a broken leg catching a rut in the ice in Los Angeles during pre-game skate.

He also has endured back and groin issues.

But through it all, Kronwall has never stopped, heading into career game No. 948 Thursday night in Buffalo.

Can Kronwall reach 1,000 next season?

That is an intriguing question, given Kronwall’s contract ends after this season.

There was widespread belief Kronwall would retire after this season, but given his ability to stay in the lineup – and both general manager Ken Holland and coach Jeff Blashill saying they believe Kronwall has another year of hockey in him – there is speculation Kronwall will return for one final season.

“He’s been excellent most of the year,” Blashill said recently. “This is certainly as physical as he’s been, more back to when I was an assistant here (2011), and he would have those Kronwall hits.

“We’ve talked about having a physical impact on game and he’s taken that to heart. He’s done a great job.”

Kronwall has consistently stated he’ll make the decision after the season.

“We’ll sit down after the year and go from there,” Kronwall said recently. “I feel good. It’s a two-way street. They have to want you, too. We’ll sit down after the season and see what happens.”

Ehn’s offense

The Red Wings want to see more offense out of forward Christoffer Ehn.

There’s no question Ehn, 22, can be a fine NHL defensive forward, but his rookie season has only provided a glimpse of the offensive potential.

Heading into Thursday’s game in Buffalo, Ehn has nine points (six assists) in 54 games, mainly playing a fourth-line role.

Ehn scored the eventual winning, shorthanded goal Monday in San Jose, providing the offense Blashill believes Ehn can provide, even now in a defensive role.

“The challenge with Christoffer is to recognize that there’s lots of offense in his game and to not be too safe,” Blashill said. “There’s opportunities. He’s gotten way better at it, I see him making more and more offensive plays. I see him doing a good job with those things.

“He made a couple over the course of the last couple games that were real good. That part of it is building.”

Blashill believes confidence is part of the formula.

“Some of it is confidence and some of it’s not being afraid to make a mistake,” Blashill said. “Some guys that are real good defensively, they just think from that defensive side of the puck, that’s what gets them in the league.

“Then, slowly but surely, they become a little more offensive.”

Ice chips

Blashill said forwards Luke Glendening and Anthony Mantha, who were held out of Wednesday’s practice, would be available against the Sabres.

… The Wings will host Hockeytown Fan Appreciation Day at Little Caesars Arena prior to the regular-season finale April 6. Access to the outdoor festival is free, open to the public and available to all ages.

Devils at Red Wings

Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Little Caesars Arena

TV/radio: FSD-Plus/1270 AM

Outlook: The Devils (29-39-9) were one point ahead of the Wings in the Eastern Conference heading into Thursday’s games. … RW Kyle Palmieri (27 goals, 50 points) and C Nico Hischier (28 assists) have led offensively.

Twitter: @tkulfan