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Notes: Virus expected to keep Green out 7-10 days

Daley and Vanek return to the lineup against the Colorado Avalanche

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DENVER -- In terms of the health of the Red Wings veteran defensemen this season, it has bordered on ridiculous.

From having to start the year with four rookie defensemen due to illness and injuries to now losing Mike Green again just as Trevor Daley returns to the lineup, it's been tough back on the blue line.

"Mike Green is out tonight, he's had a reactivation of the virus that he had earlier in the season," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "Right now, we expect him to be out 7-10 days. We'll re-evaluate when we get back home. He's got an appointment set up and we'll see where it goes from there. I don't have any more information than that."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Blashill gives a lineup update, talks defensive core and more following today's morning skate in Colorado.

Green did practice with the team Monday in Arizona.

"It's something we've looked at over the last couple weeks," Blashill said. "We've tried to manage some of the fatigue. Last night, it just got a little bit worse."

Green leads all Detroit defensemen in ice time at 21:41 and is second only to Dylan Larkin's 21:52.

Green is eighth on the team in points with 26, which is first among Wings defensemen.

"Greener is probably our best defenseman, a dynamic player, skates the puck our of trouble, veteran guy, brings a lot of calmness to the guys, good in the room, it's a big piece of our team that we'll miss but at the same time we've gone through it before this season and we'll have to do it again," defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "Anytime someone goes down it's an opportunity for someone else to step up and get some more minutes and show what they can do."

Green also serves as a quarterback for the power-play unit with Thomas Vanek, Frans Nielsen, Filip Zadina and Tyler Bertuzzi.

Vanek returns to the lineup after missing the last three games with a hip flexor issue.

Rookie Filip Hronek has been quarterbacking the top power-play unit with Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou, Anthony Mantha, and rookie Michael Rasmussen.

"First off, with Fil, we moved him to that top PP unit, so he's been getting those minutes," Blashill said. "He's going to continue to get those minutes. I just think as a group, a bunch of guys got to step up. Obviously, can Madison Bowey continue to take steps here? I thought last game was better than his first game. Can he continue to take steps? Can Fil … he played 22 minutes last game, he's not going to play a whole bunch more than that. Does his game continue to get better and better? We just need continued growth from those guys. Dales comes back in, so it gives us a real good veteran coming back in the lineup, so you're missing one but you have another. Hopefully, our D corps can be real solid."

Kronwall, who is likely to return to running the second power-play unit, has been impressed with Hronek with the man-advantage.

"I think he's got good poise with the puck, makes the right decisions, he's really good at getting the shots through, which is harder than you think, it's harder than just to say I'm going to get it through," Kronwall said. "It's encouraging to see how poised he is, how calm he is with the puck and he seems to be making the right plays, and I think that unit has been very good for us since he came on top there."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: "I think he's got good poise with the puck, makes the right decisions. He's really good at getting the shots through, which is harder than you think."Kronwall on Hronek ahead of tonight's matchup with the Avs.

Hronek has one goal and one assist on the power play so far.

"With every minute here, I'm getting more comfortable," Hronek said. "I feel better. I'm playing with good players so that's helped me for sure. It's easier now than it was before."

Part of the reason the Wings traded Nick Jensen to the Washington Capitals was to give Hronek more of an opportunity.

"That doesn't mean it goes without growing pains, there will be growing pains, especially on the back end, it's a harder position," Blashill said. "When you make mistakes, they're more glaring then up front, but we think ultimately Filip is going to grow into a top-four defenseman on a winning team. We think he can help you win. In the meantime, we just need to make sure there's more steps forward than backward and I think he's done a good job being mentally tough, too."

Kronwall remembers having to learn how to be a well-rounded NHL defenseman as a young player.

"It takes commitment and understanding on both sides of the puck," Kronwall said. "I think that's something that really stands out with Hroney. He's worked a lot of it and he's done great, so it's very encouraging to see the steps he's taken this year. He's been sent down and couple of times and every time he's been sent down, he's come right back up and been better. It's very encouraging to see that the system seems to be working."

Daley has missed the last two games with a back issue but practiced Monday and took part in the optional morning skate Tuesday. Blashill said he is ready to go.

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: 🏒 #LGRW

COLORADO CHALLENGE: The Colorado Avalanche are currently sixth in the Central Division and 10th in the Western Conference with 68 points.

That puts Colorado only six points behind St. Louis for third in the division or three points behind Dallas and Minnesota in the wild-card race.

"First of all, we're facing another team that's got a huge level of urgency as they're trying to claw their way back into the playoffs, so we got to make sure our urgency level is extremely high," Blashill said Monday. "We saw that with Arizona. We're going to see it again (to)night. The top line is one of the best lines in the league. They've been that way throughout the year. They've cooled off a little bit from where they were at the beginning of the year, but they're still a dynamic, dynamic line, so it'll be a good challenge. We got to make them defend as much as we can. We got to do a better job of that."

Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen are tied for the team lead with 82 points, placing them among the top eight in the league.

Gabriel Landeskog completes the trio with his 33 goals among 68 points.

Interestingly, Landeskog has 19 goals in the third period, a new Avalanche single-season record.

"I just think guys like that are good players and he plays generally with good players," Blashill said of Landeskog. "Even when that line is apart, they seem to go back together pretty quickly, too, and it's a super-dynamic line. He's a really good player, he's been a good player for a number of years in this league and we just got to make sure our best chance to defend any of those guys is to make them defend, whether it's MacKinnon, Ratanen, Landeskog, any of those guys, you have to make them defend.

"I think one of the things we talked about yesterday, our rush defense hasn't been good enough, but part of the issue is you have too many rush opportunities. So, we need to get better in our forecheck, get better in our O-zone grind and hound, so we're playing way more in their end. That's when we've been the best this year, when we've been on our toes, attacking and pressuring teams, so all they can do is get to the red line and change."

Jonathan Bernier, who played for the Avalanche last year, started against them at home on Dec. 2, a 2-0 loss in which MacKinnon (power play) and Landeskog both scored.

Bernier was the first goaltender off the ice after the optional morning skate.

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: 7������.

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