Detroit Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall is expected to play Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, coach Jeff Blashill said Monday. Kronwall missed the past 15 games because of arthroscopic knee surgery he had Jan. 18.
Kronwall hasn't played since Jan. 17. He has 17 points in 45 games this season.
"I'll know for sure [later] today, but we're expecting him to play [Tuesday] night," Blashill said.
Kronwall had his knee scoped to relieve lingering pain he had been having all season. He was initially expected to miss between 2-4 weeks. Monday is five weeks from his surgery.
"At one point in Nik's career he had a similar scope done and it didn't take him as long, but obviously as you get older and there is more damage in the knee it takes a little bit longer," Blashill said. "The biggest thing for Nik is we wanted to make sure and he wanted to make sure that he was really ready from a standpoint that his knee felt good and also from a standpoint that he was in good enough shape to come back and be Nik Kronwall.
"I think a mistake that we've made and certainly is easy to make is to try to bring a guy back too soon and they're not ready to be the player they are. We want Nik Kronwall to be what I think he is, and that's an elite two-way defenseman. We think it's been enough time now that he's ready to hit the ground running."
Blashill credited defenseman Danny DeKeyser for filling a big role in Kronwall's absence.
DeKeyser played 23 or more minutes in six of the 15 games Kronwall has missed. He played 23 or more minutes in seven of his first 41 games. In addition, he has four goals in the past 15 games after scoring four in his first 41.
"Danny DeKeyser for me is an elite defenseman in the NHL," Blashill said. "He's gotta be one of the best defenders in the NHL and he has definitely taken on a lot of added minutes with Nik out."