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Notes: Wings praise Ericsson's contributions

Kronwall expects to play while DeKeyser misses second straight game

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji / DetroitRedWings.com

LAS VEGAS - There is something special about a player who can go from being the last pick in the draft to a solid NHL contributor.

Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson was Detroit's ninth-round pick, 291st overall, in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.

Ericsson, 33, has played in 533 career games, more than any other player from the ninth round of that draft.

The closest comparables are Dennis Wideman, chosen with the 241st pick in the eighth round, who played in 815 games and Maxime Talbot, taken with the 234th pick in the eighth round, who played in 704 games.

Neither Wideman nor Talbot is currently playing in the NHL.

With the injury to Danny DeKeyser, Wings coach Jeff Blashill put Ericsson on the top pair with Trevor Daley Thursday in Arizona.

Ericsson had 31 shifts for 21:52, assisted on Frans Nielsen's empty-net goal, had one shot, three hits, two blocked shots and finished a team-best plus-3.

"I thought Jon Ericsson was great, I thought he was excellent," Blashill said. "I thought he was a huge impact in the game, real strong, moved the puck real well. When he uses his size to give himself a couple extra seconds, he's just a real good player, so I thought he did a real good job."

Blashill has frequently mentioned how much the Wings missed Ericsson when he suffered a broken wrist Feb. 9 in Washington, D.C. and was out for the rest of last season.

"He's a horse for us, probably more in our own zone than anything," Niklas Kronwall said. "PK, huge. And I thought last night again, you could see him and Dales had a really strong game. They played great for us. Big E has been really good for us so far."

Because Ericsson is not a huge points-producer, Kronwall said his contributions are often overlooked.

"He's so strong," Kronwall said. "He's one of a few guys in here that can kill a cycle. He pins the guy and takes the puck. He uses his size to his advantage. He has a good stick and really good on the PK."

DEKEYSER STILL OUT, KRONWALL IN: Blashill said DeKeyser will not play tonight in Las Vegas due to the lower-body injury he suffered blocking a shot Tuesday in Dallas.

But Kronwall, who made his season debut Thursday, is prepared to play, despite the back-to-back situation.

"Yeah, take warmups but I'm hoping to play," Kronwall said. "Hopefully everything goes well and should be good to go."

Kronwall played 26 shifts for 17:27 against the Coyotes.

"Very rusty but the body felt good," Kronwall said. "That's a good thing. It was fun to play again."

JENSEN DOING FINE: When Arizona forward Lawson Crouse sent Xavier Ouellet into the boards Thursday night, Nick Jensen knew what he had to do.

The problem wasn't just that Crouse is 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds to Jensen's 6-feet, 194 pounds.

Jensen is also playing with a thumb injury.

"It was going through my mind," Jensen said. "I can't really throw too many punches with a broken finger. Sticking up for your teammate, you don't have to go in there and hurt the guy. I think it's just to send a message that you do that to one of our teammates, we're not going to just sit around while you do it. I think that was kind of the message I was getting across there."

Jensen, who was one of the few players who took part in the team's optional skate at T-Mobile Arena, said he was no worse for the wear.

His coach certainly applauded the effort.

"I didn't think about it at the time but after the game I thought about it a little bit," Blashill said of Jensen fighting with an injury. "I think it's important that your instinct is to stick up for your teammate, so I think it's great that was his instinct."

VIVA LAS VEGAS: The Wings were all curious about playing a game in Las Vegas against the expansion Golden Knights.

Of course, many people don't associate Las Vegas with hockey.

Not everyone has been to Las Vegas before, including Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg.

"It's going to be interesting to see," Zetterberg said. "Obviously we don't have that much time. We're playing back to backs. But you will get a little taste of what it is."

Also new to Las Vegas is Martin Frk.

"I'm really excited to go there just to see the city," Frk said. "It probably will be special. I'm excited. It'll be fun."

Kronwall has been to the city before but it's been a while. "I went out there when I was a little younger with a few friends of mine," Kronwall said. "I'm not a gambler by any means. Just a crazy city. It really is whatever you want it to be, whether you want to golf or gamble or go to clubs or whatever it might be, it really seems to have everything for each individual."

While the players hope to do a little sightseeing, they know they're in town for business.

They also know that the 3-0 Golden Knights mean business.

"I know they're going to come out and work extremely hard," Blashill said. "That's what Gerard Gallant teams do and that's what this team seems to do the times they've played so far. They're going to come out, they're going to work like crazy and we got to be ready to outwork them to win."

Kronwall said the Wings can't afford another slow start.

"Our compete level has to be a lot higher than it was from the start last game," Kronwall said. "I think again, we come back to the same things. Get it out of our own zone, get through the neutral zone. I thought last game neutral zone was a bit of an obstacle for us. So we got to get through that and spend some more time in the offensive zone."

The city of Las Vegas is still reeling from the tragic massacre that took place at a country music concert at Mandalay Bay.

The Golden Knights have embraced the city and in turn, the city has embraced them, which has helped them get off to a fast start.

"I think we came out way too slow yesterday. You can't do that when you're on the road because teams are going to have momentum right away because they're at their home rink, so we got to match their intensity," Jensen said. "Especially this team, they're really hot right now. New team and they're playing really well together and we got to match their intensity right away."

LINEUPS: Blashill said everyone who played Thursday was available to play tonight. He also said Petr Mrazek would get his second start of the season.

"I thought he played real well (in Dallas)," Blashill said. "We talked about the one, the third goal. He was the first to say he would have liked that back but then he made two saves that should have been in the net right after that on the PK. I think Petr can be a real good goalie. He's going to have to be strong early tonight, I'm sure they're going to come out real hard, I'm sure he's going to have to be strong, just play at that level of stopping the ones he's supposed to stop and then making the big save at the big moment."

The lines and defense pairs are likely to be the same as they were in Arizona:

Tomas Tatar-Zetterberg-Gustav Nyquist

Anthony Mantha-Dylan Larkin-Justin Abdelkader

Darren Helm-Frans Nielsen-Martin Frk

Luke Glendening-Riley Sheahan-David Booth

Ericsson-Daley

Kronwall-Mike Green

Ouellet-Jensen

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