DETROIT - Hockey is a tough, physical game that can take its toll on a player.
Although Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson tied his career high in points the last two seasons with 15 points in each campaign, it's been a struggle.
"I've had this hip issue for years now," Ericsson said. "I think it's going to be there 'til the surgery is going to be made. Right now I can keep it up. It's going to have its ups and downs. That's been the biggest issue with me the last few years, but the rehab is at least four months so it's nothing I want to do in the future. I want to have that as the last out so I'm trying to rehab as much as I can."
Ericsson, 32, said the issue is a hip impingement that has been bothering him for about four years.
"It's not a natural movement to skate like for the body really to open up the hips like that all the time," Ericsson said. "A lot of hockey players have to deal with this and I've got some arthritis in there, too, which isn't helping out."
Ericsson said goaltenders often have the same type of injury.
Because of the long recovery time, Ericsson said he hopes to postpone surgery until after he is done playing.
The surgery would be a laser procedure.
"They carve it out," Ericsson explained. "There's supposed to be a round socket that goes into the hip. It's not round right now, it's like square. Those edges are hitting and everything."
Ericsson said the Wings training staff helps him minimize the effects of the hip impingement.
"I'm just trying to deal with it as good as possible," Ericsson said. "Before I really knew what it was, it was like some after games I had a hard time walking and stuff. Once we figured out what it was and was able to treat it the right way I didn't have those high ups and downs where it was going from really painful one day and feeling a little bit better the next day. Now it's not as bad. My worst days aren't as bad as they used to be."
But dealing with a chronic issue can also take a toll mentally.
"At the end I didn't feel real confident," Ericsson said. "What the factors are I'm not sure. I didn't feel real confident with the puck. It's something I want to start feeling better. I felt better going into last year with confidence and stuff. Just over the years you lose it sometimes and it's hard to get it back. You have to get into a good roll with playing and feeling good about everything and that's a big part in how everyone is playing, I think."
Ericsson said the first step was working hard in the offseason to set himself up for success during the season.
"Trying to make sure that your body is ready," Ericsson said. "Had a good summer of training here so I set myself up the best I can. It's been a lot of rehab so it's not a lot of heavy lifting like I did when I was younger. It's more trying to control your body, balancing and trying to be in the right place. Just set myself up here for training camp as much as possible."
Another possible key to success for Ericsson and the other defensemen could be new assistant coach Doug Houda, who was a Wings defenseman from 1985-91 and 1998-99.
Houda joins the Wings after 10 seasons as an assistant coach with the Boston Bruins.
"Everyone brings something different to the table," Ericsson said. "It'll be interesting to see what he brings for us and what he can do for us to make us feel better and play better."
With Houda and another new assistant coach in John Torchetti, Ericsson expects coach Jeff Blashill to make a few changes.
"A little bit with the system, try some different things," Ericsson said. "As far as the pairings, I don't think he knows that either. He's just going to wait and see. I think he has some idea going into training camp. It changed a lot during the year. I think I played with everyone last year, starting a game with pretty much every D we had. We just have to adapt to what he wants and deal with it."