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Notes: Kronwall, Abdelkader excited to play first exhibition game

Detroit native David Booth energized as he tries to make hometown team

by Dana Wakiji and Art Regner @Dwakiji and @ArthurJRegner /

DETROIT - Niklas Kronwall and Justin Abdelkader have been waiting for this day for months.

Tonight both will skate in their first preseason game at Little Caesars Arena against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Kronwall and his troublesome knee were doing fine when training camp started in Traverse City but he suffered back spasms the first day.

He's been skating since returning to Detroit and has been practicing with the team this week but has not played a game.

"It's been quite a few months since I played in a game so it'll be nice to put the jersey on and get back to work," Kronwall said.

Abdelkader participated in most of camp but started feeling some soreness in his groin the day before camp broke.

He skated on his own before joining full practice the last few days.

"You always look forward to kind of getting things going," Abdelkader said. "You get through training camp and you want to definitely get some preseason games in. It's different when you're up in camp and you're playing intrasquad scrimmages. Now you get to play against another team and it's more of a game feel. You want to obviously, as you get through these preseason games, you want to prepare and get ready for October 5. That's the date that you got to make sure you're fully engaged and ready to go. That's what preseason's about is getting the kinks out and making sure you're ready to go."

Wings coach Jeff Blashill said even with veterans, it's important for them to get that game experience before the regular season starts.

"We had conversations and they both wanted to play twice, if possible, so I'd like to get them in today," Blashill said. "It gives me the opportunity to put them in Saturday if it goes well but we'll see. But I think both of them, just getting that game experience. Kronner skated more, I would say, than Abby, so I expect him to really hit the ground running. Abby, we'll limit his minutes a little bit. We're not going to play him on the penalty kill today so he'll play on the power play and 5-on-5 so he gets enough minutes to kind of get himself going without overdoing it."

One thing that is an advantage for Kronwall, Abdelkader and any other player going through soreness or injury is that Little Caesars Arena has a hydrotherapy area, which includes a thermal plunge, a polar plunge and an underwater treadmill.

"All these things, I don't know how to really put it into perspective," Kronwall said. "Now you can do everything here, which is going to be so, so nice. So that reason and that fact is a very welcome addition to the locker room."

Abdelkader agreed that the hydrotherapy area and the other amenities have made the players want to spend more time at the rink.

"It's amazing," Abdelkader said. "To be able to utilize everything here, whether it's the pool, the hot and cold plunge, the weight room that we have is so nice, so big. It definitely makes it easier. Where guys maybe had to go somewhere else for that kind of therapy can do it all here at the rink."

Blashill said you can't underestimate how much all of it will mean throughout the course of a long season.

"I think it's unreal. The hydrotherapy specifically," Blashill said. "Being in the water is one of the best ways to limit the pounding on your joints and whatnot. Like, I wish I had a pool where I could swim lots, one of the best things for you. So you could go in that hydrotherapy, you can swim, you can do a lot of different stuff where you get load on your muscles but not on your joints, your tendons and that. So especially for guys like, I can tell you Zetterberg and Kronwall, they live in the pool. When we're on the road, they find a pool right away. So that's going to be a huge benefit for us."

BOOTH REVIVED AS WING: Detroit native David Booth always wanted to be a Red Wing.

His family has had season tickets for 25 years and during the Stanley Cup Finals he remembers skating the Red Wings flag around the ice at Joe Louis Arena.

Perhaps that explains why the veteran of 502 NHL games always has an upbeat attitude and a smile on his face as he is finally wearing the winged wheel.

After spending the last two seasons in the KHL, Booth, 32, is on a professional tryout with the Wings and is in the mix to make the Wings' final roster.

He will be in the lineup Thursday against the Blackhawks and in one of the back-to-back weekend games versus the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"That is something I've always done is just played hard, that's something I understand now is to bring that little bit of leadership, veteran presence here," Booth answered when asked about how he fits into the Wings' team. "Just to encourage the guys; it's fun seeing (Dylan) Larkin, (Anthony) Mantha, these guys are so energetic and being around them, it picks you up.

"So, if I can have a good, solid role and just continue to exceed expectations, I think that is what you have to look at is start where you are at and keep going up. I think I've done that in the past, just exceed expectations."

In three preseason games thus far, he has notched an assist is a plus-1 and has two penalty minutes.

"Being home here in Detroit, having a lot of people around, family around. It goes beyond personal expectation, I want to do this for so much more," Booth said. "I've been given a great opportunity here; I want to keep working at it, that's all I can do. "At the end of the day if I can put my head on the pillow and say I've worked hard, that's how I look at success. Like, hey, I gave it all I can and I think I have been. So, I'm happy with that, but it doesn't mean I am satisfied."

If he doesn't make the Red Wings, Booth was asked if the Grand Rapids Griffins would be an option for the former Michigan State Spartan.

He has spent a good portion of training camp skating with the Griffins.

"Seeing those young guys, they're a close group and having them win it last year (the Calder Cup) you can tell they have a special group," Booth said about the Griffins. "It would be tough playing that kind of schedule, busing everywhere, but life's tough.

"It doesn't say I've ruled it out, but that is something I would have to give more thought to than just saying yes or know right off the start."

Regardless of how it eventually plays out for Booth, he seems at peace and rejuvenated just by being home in the Motor City.

"Being so ingrained in this culture here of the Detroit Red Wings, it motivates me even more," he says. "Every kid that grows up in a hometown that has an NHL team, their dream is to play for that team most likely, whether it's Chicago, Boston or Montreal, you always dream of playing for your hometown team, so this (wearing the winged wheel) still has an effect on me."

INJURY UPDATE: The Wings are already without Tyler Bertuzzi, who has inflammation in his wrist.

Also nursing injuries are Evgeny Svechnikov, who has a neck issue, and Nick Jensen, who has a bruised right thumb.

Blashill said he did not expect either player to play the rest of the preseason.

"I'm hoping to have (Jensen) ready for game one, he's going to skate with us non-contact for the rest of the preseason," Blashill said.

IMPROVING ICE: The ice at Joe Louis Arena was known for being some of the best in the league and the Wings believe that will still be the case at Little Caesars Arena, despite the many other events taking place.

"Better than it has been," Kronwall said. "It's been a bit of a rough start with the ice but it's like everything. It takes a little time to get everything going. Hopefully by this weekend and at least next week, it should be great."

As it is a new building and everyone is still getting adjusted, especially with it being a busy building, there is a learning curve.

"Well, it was a concern early," Blashill said. "I think Al Sobotka's done a great job here in the last day. I thought yesterday the practice sheet was real good and today the game sheet was real good, way better than it was earlier. So he's made some adjustments. He's one of the best in the business so he's put ourselves in position to have good ice."

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