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Kronwall, Ericsson not ready

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings
Jonathan Ericsson will miss his third straight game with a lower-body injury. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT -- Things are moving in the right direction for Niklas Kronwall, but he's not quite ready to play.

Kronwall, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on Jan. 19, skated in his first full practice with the team Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena.

"I felt pretty good actually," Kronwall said. "It was obviously very exciting to be with the guys again. I was saying to somebody it’s something that you lose sight of, when you’re playing you’re kind of taking everything for granted. Once you’ve been out for a little bit you get back to that feeling (and) just how much you enjoy it."

Kronwall will travel with the Wings on their three-game trip, but he is not aiming at a particular game for his return.

"That’s hard to tell," Kronwall said. "Right now we’re just going day by day. Today was a good day. Let’s come back tomorrow morning and see how it feels. Hopefully it feel good and we’ll go at it again and then we’ll go from there. Hopefully it doesn’t take too long. Conditioning wise, felt pretty good. I’ve been skating with (Mike) Kadar a few practices and I’m gonna keep doing that as well. And then the last thing is just getting the timing down in all kinds of different situations out there."

Like Kronwall, Wings coach Jeff Blashill is just going day-to-day, saying only that Kronwall is definitely out for Thursday's game in Pittsburgh.

"We can see that he's making strides and closer to being ready, so we'll continue to evaluate it day to day," Blashill said.

ERICSSON REMAINS OUT: After scoring a goal Feb. 12 against Colorado, defenseman Jonathan Ericsson has missed the last two games with a lower-body injury that he suffered late in that game.

"Not going on the ice today was the decision we made this morning," Ericsson said. "It's a little bit better but it's not good enough for me to skate right now. So we're kind of taking this day by day here and see how it is tomorrow."

Blashill said Ericsson, who did not skate Wednesday, will not play Thursday in Pittsburgh.

"I don't think he's realistic for the weekend, just based on not being on the ice today but I guess I'd reserve that until Friday and see where things are at," Blashill said.

Like Kronwall, Ericsson will also travel with the team.

"We're just going to go day by day here and since we're gone for five days on this trip, I'm hoping it's just going to get better each day here and have a chance to play in one of these games here at least," Ericsson said.

Ericsson played in all 82 games last season so missing time is not fun for him.

"Missing games is more frustrating than anything," Ericsson said. "For me, I know I need a couple games to get into it again and stuff like that so that's more frustrating than anything. I just don't want to miss any games or practices so I want to get on the ice here as quickly as possible."

PENGUINS ROLLING: Since defeating the Wings 5-2 on New Year's Eve, the Pittsburgh Penguins have gone 10-4-4.

The Penguins' power play has moved up to 13th and their penalty kill is fourth.

"Obviously (Sidney) Crosby's playing at a high level right now," Blashill said. "As a team, they're very, I'd say, well-coached. They're playing as a five-man unit for sure. They've gotten good goaltending most of the year. We know they're a really good hockey team. I think they're a real dangerous hockey team. If you turn pucks over against them you're going to be in trouble.

"We turned over way too many pucks over against them on New Year's Eve and put ourselves in a tough spot. We just watched a lot of the game again and it was just too many turnovers. So we're going to have to limit our turnovers for sure. We're going to have to make them earn their offense, which they will, but we can't give them any free offense."

The Penguins are without Evgeni Malkin, who has missed the last six games with a lower-body injury.

Malkin is second on the team with 49 points (23 goals) in 49 games.

Crosby leads the Penguins with 53 points (24 goals) in 54 games.

"They have so much skill on that team, they have for years," Danny DeKeyser said. "They got their core guys and they build around them. They always bring in other skill guys who can put the puck in the net. They’re a good team, they’re playing pretty well lately. It’s going to be a tough game for us. We got to get out of there with two points."

THURSDAY'S GOALTENDER: Blashill said Petr Mrazek would start in goal Thursday.

Mrazek's last game was Sunday's unusual 6-5 win over the Boston Bruins.

"I’m really excited to be back," Mrazek said. "Every game is different. Against Boston everything went in, both ways. The game is over and we’re looking at a new day now."

Mrazek allowed five goals for the first time all season. Tuukka Rask was pulled after giving up five goals on 24 shots.

"It was just one of those games that everything goes in," Mrazek said. "I was waiting for when they were going to score from the red line. Eight seconds they score a goal, you have some bad bounces there, but you don’t worry about it, you get the two points and you don’t look backward on it anymore.

We got the win. Nobody will ever ask me how the game goes. We won the game. We have to get ready for the next one."

Blashill said he was not concerned about Mrazek's last outing.

"He's got a short memory which is a positive thing as a goalie," Blashill said. "You're also judged by every single performance so the next performance he has will give himself another chance to build on that resume of being a real good bounce-back goalie. Pittsburgh's certainly got a lot of firepower so we'll need him to be real good."

Blashill said the lineup would otherwise remain the same.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Drew Miller and former Wing Luc Robitaille celebrated birthdays Wednesday.

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