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Notes: Niklas Kronwall returns against Rangers

Detroit and New York are playing for the first time since Oct. 19

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT - The Red Wings get a little more healthy as defenseman Niklas Kronwall returns today.

Kronwall, who has been skating regularly with the team, has missed the last eight games with a groin injury. He missed the first 11 games of the season with a chronic knee issue.

Darren Helm returned Friday in Buffalo, scoring a goal in the 3-2 overtime loss.

Before the team left for Buffalo, Kronwall said he felt very close to being ready to go.

Although the Wings are currently in seventh place in the Atlantic Division with 47 points, Kronwall believes they can make a run and return to the playoffs for the 26th straight season.

"Otherwise we wouldn't be doing this," Kronwall said. "We play hockey because we love to win and we love to play the game. You play because you want to win. We feel like there's a lot more than what we've proved so far this season. But right now, we've talked about it enough. It's time for us to start showing it. I thought the games against Pitt and Montreal especially were very good games. I thought last game wasn't as great but we still came out with two points. That's the biggest thing."

In order to make room for Kronwall, the Wings will have to make a roster move.

RANGERS IN TOWN: The Wings face the New York Rangers for the second time this season.

"They do two things really well," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "They're really, really hard around your net. They get to the net well, they force the slot, they get pucks up top and they crash the net. They create turnovers on the forecheck and go right to the net. So our slot protection has to be great. They've got a lot of speed so they put pucks in the space and they're able to get in foot races and get behind you. One of our keys is making sure we don't give up any easy chances and within that is to make sure we protect the slot well and make sure they don't get behind us."

The last time they played was Oct. 19, when goaltender Jimmy Howard had a spectacular game, making 32 saves in a 2-1 victory at Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers are currently fourth in the Metropolitan Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference with 59 points.

The last seven games between the Wings and Rangers have been decided by one goal and seven of the last 14 have gone to overtime.

Oddly enough, the Wings are 6-3-2 against Metropolitan Division teams and the Rangers are just 5-6-1 against Atlantic Division teams.

Because of fog in the Detroit area, the Wings were not able to return Friday night after the game in Buffalo.

So the team did not practice as scheduled Saturday.

"I think the biggest key in the NHL, and especially with lack of days of preparation - obviously we didn't get to practice yesterday because of the fog - you try to do what you do and do it great," Blashill said. "That's the biggest thing. We'll show them some different things, basically three different keys in areas where we gotta be good or maybe you can take advantage. But for the most part it's just play your game at a high level."

The Rangers will return to Detroit March 12.

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