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Notes: Kronwall returns to lineup while DeKeyser out due to injury

Defense pairs change because of that and forward lines get a little change

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

GLENDALE - One returns while another sits out for the Red Wings.

Veteran defenseman Niklas Kronwall is ready to return after missing the first three games of the season with a tweaked groin while Danny DeKeyser is out.

"It's been a while so it's definitely anxious to get back in there and just play again," Kronwall said. "Did a little bit more battle stuff yesterday and everything feels good so should be good to go."

Kronwall missed the first 11 games last season due to his chronic knee issues.

"It's big for us," captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "Coming into camp he looked really good. Then injuries happened. He worked himself back here and he's ready to go. On the ice, off the ice, he's a leader. He plays a lot of minutes, he plays all situations. We're happy to have him back."

Wings coach Jeff Blashill confirmed that DeKeyser, who left Tuesday's game in Dallas after blocking a shot, would not be available against the Arizona Coyotes and his status is day to day.

While acknowledging that DeKeyser will be missed, Blashill is happy that Kronwall is back in.

"Tons of moxie, tons of confidence, tons of talk," Blashill said about what Kronwall brings. "He makes other people around him better because he talks. He's still an elite passer of the puck. I thought last year down the stretch he was excellent for us. Once he learned how to put his body in the best position to be successful, I think he was really good. For a lot of years he was a top 10 defenseman in the league. That's a heck of a player to return."

In the morning skate, Kronwall was paired with Mike Green while Jonathan Ericsson skated on the top pair with Trevor Daley.

"First of all I thought Jonathan was really good the other night," Blashill said. "It gives you lots of experience. Johnny's matched up against the other team's best players a lot of times throughout his career, so it gives you a chance to be able to do that a little bit. Danny's done that lots and now with Danny out, it gives them the opportunity to do that."

Kronwall said after Wednesday's optional practice that he would like to play both Thursday against the Coyotes and Friday in Las Vegas against the Golden Knights.

"We wanted to take an approach so that when he comes back in he stays in," Blashill said. "Now, we're playing the first half of back-to-backs. Tomorrow is a new day so we'll see what that brings. Right now we just want to make sure he's ready to have a good night tonight."

COYOTES LIKE STARS: For the second straight game, the Wings will be facing a team searching for its first win of the young season.

The Dallas Stars were 0-2 before beating the Wings, 4-2, and the Coyotes come into the game tonight 0-2-1.

"Anytime you face somebody who hasn't won, it's kind of like in Dallas the other night," Blashill said. "You're facing a team that you know is going to be absolutely 100 percent ready, so you'd better be ready and you better be ready from the drop of the puck to compete like it takes to compete and win. Every night in this league for me is a playoff game, so we better be ready to compete at a high level."

The Coyotes are just 48-61-22-8 all-time against the Wings and 23-27-14-5 in Arizona but have earned a point in 10 of their last 14 games against them.

"They're young, fast," Zetterberg said. "We look at the lineup and there's a lot of new guys. Most of the time when we come down here it's good games. They have a good goalie. (Antti) Raanta is really good in net. So it's going to be a challenge for us here tonight. We've got to play strong defense and take care of our chances."

Raanta is 2-0-0 with a 1.50 goals-against average and .947 save percentage in two games against the Wings.

Kronwall is expecting the best from the Coyotes, who have scored a first-period goal in each of their first three games.

"They're going to throw everything at us," Kronwall said. "They haven't had a great start by any means, but they've been playing some good hockey. They're just waiting for things to turn around. But our focus has to be on us, what do we have to do - take care of the puck, get the puck deep and all these cliches that are out there but that really is as simple as it is."

Martin Frk said the Wings have to win all the individual battles.

"They will probably come hard," Frk said. "They want to get the first win, they're going to come and try to beat us with all the battles. We just got to go learn from the game in Dallas. Every game is important, every win is important so we have to win here tonight and put another points in the standings."

LINEUPS FOR ARIZONA: The Wings went with slightly different lines in the morning skate than they had been using:

Tomas Tatar-Zetterberg-Gustav Nyquist

Anthony Mantha-Dylan Larkin-Justin Abdelkader

Frk-Frans Nielsen-Darren Helm

Luke Glendening-Riley Sheahan-David Booth

"It doesn't matter who I'm playing with, I just want to play every game," Frk said. "It doesn't matter if I'm playing with those guys or someone else. It's just another game. That's how the coach put it and I'm sure he thinks it will work like that. That's perfect. I'm not upset or anything."

Defense pairs:



Xavier Ouellet-Nick Jensen

Luke Witkowski, who has played the last two games at forward on the fourth line, worked with the defensemen during Thursday's morning skate.

"Witter is somebody who when we signed him, one of the things I was attracted to was his versatility," Blashill said. "He can play both forward and D. Obviously when you're tight against the cap it helps to have guys with versatility. Going into game one, we used him on D that whole week of practice just so he got some reps on D. I want to make sure, so today he was getting some reps on D as well."

Jimmy Howard, who was in the starter's net in the morning skate, is 9-4-3 with a 2.50 goals-against average, .918 save percentage and one shutout in 16 career games against the Coyotes.

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