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Notes: Kronwall feels good, hopes to play Thursday; Jensen ready

Larkin looks to find a balance between setting up linemates and his own offense

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT - Barring any setbacks in the next 24 hours, the Red Wings should have everyone on their roster healthy enough to play in the first regular season game at Little Caesars Arena.

Defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who has been dealing with a sore groin since playing against the Chicago Blackhawks last Thursday, practiced with the team Wednesday.

"I feel pretty good right now," Kronwall said after Wednesday's practice at the BELFOR Training Center. "Hopefully, it stays this way and hopefully it feels good tomorrow again and see what Coach says and then we'll go from there."

Wings coach Jeff Blashill said they will wait to see how Kronwall feels before making a final decision.

"He had a good practice today, felt good so we'll see how he is tomorrow," Blashill said. "If he feels like he can play at 100 percent - that doesn't always mean you feel 100 percent - but if he feels he can play at 100 percent, then we'll certainly play him."

Kronwall said he wasn't hurt on a specific play in the game.

"It wasn't anything, not one thing that popped, it was more like fatigue and it got worse," he said. "But it feels pretty good right now."

While Kronwall would love to play in the first game at Little Caesars Arena, he's also thinking long-term.

"Obviously, it would be pretty cool, but at the same time we got a lot more coming this year, so you don't want to get caught looking too short-sighted, it's a long season," Kronwall said. "You don't want this to be something that nags you for a long time. Hopefully, it's behind me now and I can look forward to a long season."

Defenseman Nick Jensen, who was supposed to be limited to non-contact last week due to a bruised right thumb, said he feels fit to play.

"Even last week, I said I wasn't going to be doing much contact but I still found myself doing a lot of drills that there are contact," Jensen said. "I did that last week, it was fine. This week they told me to make sure you do all the contact, I did all the contact - one-on-one drills, two-on-two, all the checking and stuff in the corner and everything felt good. There's no reason I shouldn't be able to play."

ANTICIPATING THE OPENER: The Wings have gotten a taste of what their new rink plays like during the preseason but they can't wait to see what it's like with a full house.

"I only got a chance to play in one preseason game," Kronwall said. "It was probably 10-12, 13,000, but man, does it get loud. Can only imagine what it's going to be like when it's sold-out. With the stands so steep, it really feels like they're on top of you. It's pretty great."

Blashill hinted that fans who came during the preseason can expect much more during the regular season.

"I assume it's going to be unreal," Blashill said. "I think everybody's excited about playing the opener in this building and I know they, they being our people, have kept a lot of the pre-game show stuff and the in-game stuff, they didn't expose it in the exhibition games so I think people are going to get quite a show from that aspect.

"I think we got to make sure we put on quite a show from a hockey aspect. In the end, we got to win a hockey game. It's a big game. I think every game in this league is a playoff game. But with that said, obviously anytime you get a chance to do something like this when you're opening a new building, it's a pretty special thing."

Jensen did not join the Wings until last December so this will be his first opening night with the team.

"I'm really looking forward to it," Jensen said. "It'll be exciting. I've never gone through it, especially it's in a new building, too, so it's going to be a great atmosphere, I think."

Kronwall has played in many opening nights and he hopes Little Caesars Arena becomes a place where opponents fear to tread.

"Hopefully, you have a bit of an intimidating factor," Kronwall said. "It's going to be a special place. At the same time, the Joe was the same way. I think it's more the fans than anything."

BALANCE FOR LARKIN: Dylan Larkin has stressed the importance of trying to make linemates Anthony Mantha and Martin Frk better but that doesn't mean he should neglect his own offense.

"I think there was one chance I had against Toronto (last Friday), I was in the slot and tried to force a pass," Larkin said. "The past couple years I've been playing with some good players that have been finding me a lot and I've been shoot first but I'm playing with these guys who have two of the best shots I've seen in this league but I could definitely shoot a little bit more as well."

In his rookie season, Larkin led the Wings with 23 goals. Larkin also led the team that year with 221 shots.

Last season he was second on the team with 178 shots to captain Henrik Zetterberg's 195.

"My message to Larks is when he gets in scoring areas, keep shooting when he's got the chance," Blashill said. "Larks is a real smart offensive player. He'll know when he gets the opportunities. I think the biggest thing is using his speed when he needs to and then slowing his game down when he needs to. It's hard to make tons of plays when you're going full speed all the time.

"So being able to slow the game down at times and I think he's learned a lot from watching Zetterberg. Zetterberg does a great job of that, at bringing the game to whatever pace he wants it to be at. I think Larkin's learned that kind of change of speed, use it as an asset but then slow it down and make plays when there's opportunities to."

Although Zetterberg led the team in shots, he also led in assists with 51.

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