DETROIT - Niklas Kronwall has played in five games since his return from dealing with chronic knee issues.
In order to maintain his knees, Kronwall has generally not skated the day after a game.
Kronwall did not practice Monday after the day off Sunday and Wings coach Jeff Blashill said Kronwall won't play Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"That gives us a space of Sunday-Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday (off) and he'll be available for practice Thursday," Blashill said. "I want him to play as many healthy games where he feels as good as possible. You got to look at the schedule, and certainly opponents, but more importantly, when can you get real breaks. This is a four-day break that's hard to get during the year. He's only going to miss one game. It's something we got to make sure do a good job managing."
Kronwall only played 15:36 in the 5-0 loss at Montreal Saturday but Blashill said it's difficult to keep him off the ice if he's available.
"When he sits on the bench it's hard not play him lots of minutes," Blashill said. "He's been an elite defenseman, in my opinion, for a long time in this league and so when he's on the bench it's hard not play him lots. So the only way to not play him is to make him take time off."
In practice Monday, Ryan Sproul took Kronwall's spot on the first power-play unit alongside Mike Green but Blashill said he hasn't made a final decision on which defenseman will play in Kronwall's spot.
BATTLING: Monday's practice had the Wings going against each other in some tough battle drills.
"It was some good battle drills, one-on-ones, two-on-twos," Justin Abdelkader said. "I think we obviously stressed winning those one-on-one battles all over the ice. It was a good work day today. Day off yesterday, it's kind of a light week, so it was a good practice. Get ready because obviously have to win all of our one-on-one battles tomorrow against Tampa."
The one-sided loss at Montreal had a lot to do with it.
"We talked about identity and talked about being relentless and we talked about being fast and we talked about being competitive," Blashill said. "You can't win in this league if you're not highly, highly, highly competitive and I thought in the game in Montreal we got out-competed and we can't get out-competed."
The Wings have had difficulty possessing the puck, which leads to more chances against and fewer chances for.
"It's everywhere," Luke Glendening said. "It's in the offensive zone. It's in the defensive zone. It's at our net, at their net, face-offs. To have the puck you have to win face-offs. So all those little things are things that we need to implement in our game and be better at tomorrow."
The Wings know there's a thin line between winning and losing and one battle could make the difference.
"It's so tight that there's not much separates each team out there," Abdelkader said. "We really got to focus on winning those battles. I think we just got to continue to get better at breaking the puck out and then when we get pucks in their zone, obviously the last game Carey Price, he plays the puck so well he's like another defenseman down there. We just got to have better dumps and be better on the forecheck so we can spend more time in their zone so it's not dump the puck in and they break right out and it's easy for them. Obviously we're playing Ben Bishop tomorrow and he's similar, he plays the puck really well. Focus on putting pucks in the right spots."
LINE CHANGES: Glendening has been a fixture at center on the Wings' fourth line but that could be changing.
In Monday's practice, Glendening was on a line with Frans Nielsen and Dylan Larkin.
"We got to get to the other net better, we got to get more forecheck pressure and we got to win more puck battles," Blashill said. "He does all those things and it frees you up on the wing a little bit to get in on the forecheck, win puck battles, get to the net. It allows more space for Nielsen and Larkin potentially, so it's something we're looking at."
Glendening doesn't think he will have to do anything different.
"I don't think it really changes my role," Glendening said. "I've got to be hard; I've got to go get pucks, be physical, be good defensively."
Riley Sheahan was centering Tyler Bertuzzi and Steve Ott during practice.
VANEK GETTING CLOSER: Thomas Vanek has been skating with the team for several days now and is eligible to come off long-term injured reserve after Friday's game.
"I feel pretty good," Vanek said. "I've skated all week. So far no setbacks. Every day I'm trying to do more and more and so far, so good."
Vanek has missed the last nine games because of a hip injury. "I felt a little something before the Carolina game already," Vanek said. "I think I just hurt it a little bit worse at the end of the game. I just tried it and it didn't feel good."
Despite missing so much time, Vanek remains the Wings' fourth leading scorer with eight points.
"Of course it was frustrating," Vanek said. "As a team and myself, I felt good about my game and how our line was going. Again, even back then I thought maybe I'll sit out a game and be back in a week. It got worse, so it was frustrating."
Blashill said Vanek came out of the World Cup playing at full-speed and he hopes Vanek is able to do that again when he returns from this injury because he's been skating hard in practice.
"As far as skating and stuff I feel real good," Vanek said. "The adjustment is always it's a fast game we play. I try to assimilate that as much as I can in practice so hopefully it won't take me long to get back in the swing of it."