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Notes: Wings excited for first exhibition game at Little Caesars Arena

Kronwall practices with team; Zetterberg, Abdelkader won't go Saturday

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji / DetroitRedWings.com

DETROIT - They say you always remember your first time experiencing something so Saturday night will be memorable for many people.

That's because it marks the first exhibition game at Little Caesars Arena with the Boston Bruins as the first visitors.

"We are all looking forward to it for sure," Tomas Tatar said. "When you walk in here it's always a great feeling. What a facility it is. It's amazing. Fans will be excited for sure, too. We're really looking forward to it. It's going to be a good game."

Normally there are a lot of players in the exhibition season that fans don't know too well but that isn't likely to be the case Saturday.

"We're going to dress a good roster," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "I'm going to give a lot of guys that have been around here a chance to play in it because it is going to be more than a normal exhibition game. Certainly opening night of the regular season will be awesome but this will be a neat thing to be a part of, too."

The Wings are still getting to know their new home and they've mostly been skating on the practice rink in the BELFOR Training Center.

At Joe Louis Arena, the goaltenders had to learn the quirks of the boards there because they were different from most places and could create havoc if you weren't ready.

It's still early but Jimmy Howard, who will start in goal Saturday, gave his impressions.

"They don't seem as lively as the Joe, believe it or not," Howard said. "I don't know if that has to do with all the rules and regulations throughout the league but they definitely don't seem as lively, so we'll see. We did a couple of drills today just to see if there's any bounces or anything like that out there, but for the most part they're just like any other boards around the league now."

Blashill said he hadn't tested them himself yet.

"I know when (public relations director) Todd Beam was out here skating earlier with his hard slap shot, he was taking them off the end wall and it was weird actually," Blashill said. "Some spots really kicked and some didn't. I know I talked to (goaltending coach) Jeff Salajko today, he was just talking about on some rims, there's some spots we got to get fixed probably where it was kicking off to the net front so we don't want to get scored on any of those types of goals."

The Wings wanted their new building to have the same intimidation factor that Montreal's Bell Centre has with the fans right on top of the ice.

Montreal native Anthony Mantha can't wait to see how close it is.

"It's going to be fun," Mantha said. "I can't wait to hear the noise that's going … the effect the noise is going to have. The fans are going to be excited to see … I know a couple of them was here last week for Kid Rock but first exhibition game is different. Atmosphere is going to be different. It's just going to be exciting to play here."

INJURY ISSUES: There are a few big names who won't be playing in Saturday's exhibition game, including captain Henrik Zetterberg, who is day to day.

"He just had a minor thing that's not a big deal but it will hold him out for tomorrow," Blashill said, calling it a kink in Zetterberg's neck.

Zetterberg is expected to get in a game by next Friday at the latest.

Also out is Justin Abdelkader, who has not been practicing due to a sore groin. The hope is he'll be available by next weekend.

Tyler Bertuzzi will also not play Saturday.

"I'll know more on Bertuzzi tomorrow," Blashill said. "He's got a mid-body injury that he's having checked out today and I'll have way more information for you tomorrow, whether it's a minor thing or not."

Bertuzzi underwent an MRI Friday.

PA Parenteau, who did not play in Chicago Thursday after injuring himself in the morning skate, practiced Friday and told Blashill he is ready to go.

KRONWALL PRACTICES: Niklas Kronwall joined his teammates for the first time in practice Friday.

The veteran defenseman had been skating on his own the last few days after missing training camp practices with back spasms, not anything to do with his chronic knee problems.

"More back than anything, to be honest with you," Kronwall said. "Knee has been feeling pretty good for a while. It's more the back that seized up a little bit. But that's feeling a lot better now. It's nice to be back skating with the guys and we'll take it step by step."

Kronwall said the problem started right before the team's first practice in Traverse City a week ago.

Although Kronwall won't play Saturday, he expects to get into at least one exhibition game.

"I think tomorrow might be a little too soon," he said. "I haven't really practiced. Today was the first practice with the team. I feel pretty good. It's definitely getting there. Just got to get the legs and lungs going."

Blashill was happy to have Kronwall back with the team.

"I thought it was great," Blashill said. "Again, I think I said it up there, it was a little bit of a strain. I didn't think it was a big issue. It wasn't anything that I thought was going to be a chronic thing. It certainly wasn't anything with his knees or anything like that. But to have him back, I thought he looked good."

Kronwall said he changed a few things in his offseason training and his troublesome knee is feeling much better than it did a year ago at this time.

At the end of last season, the knee seemed to be better the more he skated.

"For whatever reason, that certainly was the case," Kronwall said. "I felt like I got more comfortable. It's kind of been like that. As long as I've been doing something the whole time, things have been feeling a lot better instead of just doing nothing. That doesn't seem to work very good."

Kronwall hopes he does not have to miss any games or practices this season as he did last season, when he was limited to 57 games because of knee issues.

"I'm hoping to, once the season starts, everything is up and running, I will approach it like any other season really," Kronwall said. "Obviously last season, not a lot of things went the way I wanted to for myself nor the team.

"So I think there's a lot of guys in here that feel like they just want to get back out there and go after it and redeem themselves."

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