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Training Camp

Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall skate at camp

Red Wings forward, defenseman recovering from knee injuries, uncertain for Oct. 13 opener

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

DETROIT -- Forward Henrik Zetterberg and defenseman Niklas Kronwall skated with the Detroit Red Wings for the first time in training camp Tuesday as they recover from knee injuries.

Coach Jeff Blashill said he hoped they would be ready for the season opener at the Tampa Bay Lightning on Oct. 13, but Zetterberg is further ahead than Kronwall in his recovery.

"It's been a little slower than we all expected, but it's definitely getting better," Zetterberg said.

Zetterberg, who turns 36 on Sunday, went through a regular practice with players who weren't traveling for a preseason game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday. He said he hoped to skate with the Red Wings again Wednesday and that they probably would decide Wednesday or Thursday whether he would play a preseason game. The Red Wings finish the preseason with back-to-back games against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday and Saturday.

"It would be nice to get one in," Zetterberg said. "I don't think it's optimal to go straight into Tampa. But in the same way, we're not doing it if it's going to risk injury."

Kronwall went through a shorter pregame skate with the players scheduled to be in the lineup at Chicago. 

"The next step will be getting him into a practice, and seeing how it goes and how he keeps reacting, but I'd say he's progressing," Blashill said. "The goal for me is to have him ready for Game 1 against Tampa. So we've still got enough time -- not lots of time, but enough time -- that if he keeps progressing, he'll be ready to go."

Video: TBL@DET, Gm3: Zetterberg's deflection doubles lead

Kronwall said he was moving in the right direction but it was too soon to tell whether he would be ready for the season opener.

"I'd hoped to have a few preseason games under my belt already," Kronwall said. "In that way, it's quite a bit behind schedule."

The priority is being healthy for the season, not the season opener.

"That's the big thing," Kronwall said. "We've got 82 games ahead of us, plus playoffs. There's definitely months of games. You want to be looking at the big picture, but sometimes that's easier said than done."

Video: PHI@DET: Kronwall scores to put the Red Wings on top

The Red Wings also said forward Justin Abdelkader will serve as an alternate captain, replacing center Pavel Datsyuk, who returned home to Russia to play in the Kontinental Hockey League. Zetterberg remains as captain and Kronwall as the other alternate.

Abdelkader has risen from a bottom-six grinder to a top-six wing who scored 23 goals in 2014-15 and 19 last season. He played for Team USA at the World Cup of Hockey 2016.

"He also embodies everything we want to be about," Blashill said. "We want to outwork people; he's a worker. We want to out-detail people; he's detailed. We want to be selfless; he's selfless. I think to me it's a great choice, and I'm excited about it."

Abdelkader, 29, is a Michigan native who played at Michigan State and has spent his entire NHL career with the Red Wings. He grew up watching their Stanley Cup championship teams in 1997, 1998 and 2002, and began breaking in when they won the Cup in 2008 and went back to the Stanley Cup Final in 2009. Now he has to pass on what he has learned.

"Just really excited about this opportunity," Abdelkader said. "I think we've got a lot of good young players who are pushing their way to come up on the team, so we have a good mix of veterans and some young guys. It should be hopefully a great year, and it's going to be fun to watch us grow as a team."

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