DETROIT –A vital piece returns to the Red Wings’ defense tonight, while another one is counting his lucky stars that he didn’t miss any time.
Mike Green, who sat the last two games with a sore groin, expects to play tonight when the Red Wings host the Colorado Avalanche at Joe Louis Arena.
“Yeah, just kind of seized up,” said Green, who has a history of groin injuries. “It was one of those things where you finish and you go home and wake up in the morning and just sort of locked up and sore. Obviously it wasn’t anything that popped or I didn’t feel anything in that sense but just hard to move and a little but sore. But it feels good. Trainers did a great job of getting me back.”
Green scored a goal in each of his two games prior to the injury. He has four goals and 21 points in 46 games this season.
Should Green return to the lineup, as the Red Wings anticipate, then Jakub Kindl will be a healthy scratch. Kindl picked up an assist while subbing in for Green.
Meanwhile, Danny DeKeyser, who didn’t finish Wednesday’s game against Ottawa, feels much better, and a bit fortunate, that Dion Phaneuf’s shot from the point didn’t do greater damage.
“It just hit the side of my right knee,” DeKeyser said. “They said it was right on that nerve there, in that area, so my leg just kind of went limp there for 15-20 minutes and I couldn’t really get much strength out of it.”
DeKeyser, who leads the Red Wings’ defensemen with seven goals, said he tried to shake off the pain. He even returned midway through the third but lasted only one shift before calling it a night.
“Yeah, you’re always a little bit nervous when something happens and you get hurt,” he said. “You just kind of hope it’s not too serious. So I got lucky there.
“It started to feel better as I walked it off bit but I couldn’t really put a whole lot of weight on it and kind of load up that leg to skate and get enough strength out of it. So I couldn’t finish the game.”
The Wings are on a three-game winning streak, all on home ice. A win tonight would equal their season-long winning streak at JLA.
Part of the difference, Green says, is the team is playing with purpose on every puck possession.
“We’re utilizing our speed a lot better,” he said. “We’re putting pucks to areas to get it back. Even when we dump it, we’re putting it in areas so that somebody’s forechecking and can create turnovers. I think that’s where a lot of our offense – you look at the goal Pavel had the other night, with Abby forechecking, Z comes through, they turn the puck over and we got a 2 on 1, so just great job by our forwards, they’re creating a lot for us.”
Coach Jeff Blashill things Green’s analysis is a fair assessment.
“We talk about the puck being gold,” Blashill said. “You're going to have to get rid of it at times. Otherwise, because of the way teams wall off the blue line, so you're either going to have to chip it into space or dump it into areas and you certainly want to put yourself in the best position to be able to retrieve that puck, whether it's a chip or the guy slashing to a spot or whether it's a dump with a guy on the other side not allowing the goalie to get to it. So it's something that's critically important. When you dump the puck, it doesn't mean you lose possession. If you lose possession you lose possession. So let's make sure we do everything as well as we can with that puck so that we can continue to have it as much as possible."
DeKeyser has had an uptick in offensive production as well, scoring five goals in the past 14 games. A lot of his turn around comes from his willingness to jump into the play.
“I try to get up in the play when I can,” he said. “It just seems there are a few more opportunities this years where the puck is actually finding me instead of kind of being the late guy in the rush and not getting it. I’m getting hit with that puck a few more times and it’s going in for me, which is nice.”
The Wings’ coaches have also encouraged DeKeyser to shoot more from the line blue.
“Well they’re always preaching that, always preaching to have the extra D-man jump into the play and having the D ready to shoot from the point,” said DeKeyser, who has averaged 1.29 shots in the past 14, which is up from 0.80 shots in his first 25 games this season.
Offensive contributions from the blue line continue to be on the rise for the Wings. DeKeyser (goal), Green (two goals), Kindl (assist), Kyle Quincey (goal) and Brendan Smith (assist) have points in the past four games.
“I'm happy overall with the way that our defensemen and our team in general has continued to defend well and been able to add some offense at the same time,” Blashill said. “That was our goal and will continue to be our goal is to continue to defend real well, continue to do a good job of limiting opportunities, continue to do a good job of limiting seconds but add some offense. I think our guys have done a good job of that. I think we've grown as a team from the beginning of the year and certainly lately here guys have done a good job of that.”
Defense - DET
Goals: 3 | Assists: 14 | Pts: 17
Shots: 43 | +/-: -10
For the first time since his Jan. 19 knee surgery, defenseman Niklas Kronwall
skated with his teammates at Joe Louis Arena. The veteran had been skating on his own until Friday.
Kronwall is eligible to come off injured reserve this weekend, but Blashill won’t insert him in the lineup until he’s cleared and has had several practices with the team.
“He's at a spot after three and a half weeks where conditioning becomes a factor, where hockey conditioning becomes a factor,” Blashill said. “We don't have lots of real practices. We practice (Saturday) but it'll be light based on the three (games) in four (days) so it's going to take a little bit to make sure he's up to 100 percent speed. We don't want to put in a D-man that isn't 100 percent ready to go. I don't think it's a good thing to put guys in without putting them in the best positions to hit the ground running."
NOT SO FAST: On Thursday, the NHL announced that Chicago will host the 2017 NHL draft, but during a new conference meant to provide some details for the two-day event, the mayor of the third largest U.S. city took things a little too far.
Noting that his city will not only welcome the NHL draft to town, but also the NCAA’s Frozen Four in 2017, Mayor Rahm Emanuel predicts, “Chicago will be Hockeytown, USA.”
Hockeytown has been a registered trademark owned by the Red Wings since June 1998.
Told of hizzoner’s assertion following Friday’s morning skater, Justin Abdelkader wondered if Emanuel has ever been to Detroit.
“Does he know much about hockey, or no?” Abdelkader asked. “He must not. This is Hockeytown.”
Pretty sure that title's staying in Detroit for the foreseeable future.