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Notes: Z, Kronwall practice; Larkin, Ott on photobomb

Pulkkinen, Abdelkader to make preseason debuts in Chicago

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT - The goal for both Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall is to be ready for the Red Wings' season opener in Tampa on Oct. 13.

Both players are dealing with knee problems. Zetterberg's is an injury he suffered in off-ice training and Kronwall's issues are more chronic.

Both have been skating on their own for a while but Tuesday each took a step forward.

Kronwall skated with the group that is playing in Chicago tonight. 

"It was pretty good," Kronwall said. "It was a short one but it was nice to skate with the guys again."

Although Kronwall is a little behind Zetterberg, Wings coach Jeff Blashill is optimistic.

"He skated with (strength and conditioning coach) Mike (Kadar) a little bit today and did a pre-game skate," Blashill said. "The next step will be getting him into a practice and seeing how it goes, how he keeps reacting. I'd say he's progressing. The goal for me is to have him ready for Game 1 against Tampa. We've got enough time - not lots of time - but enough time if he keeps progressing, he'll be ready to go."

Zetterberg practiced with the non-game group in a longer session.

"It's weird to have more than four skaters around me, but it was fine," Zetterberg said. "It was about time I get back to doing a little more than I have been doing. Goal is still Tampa on the 13th. Nothing has changed that way. I've still got a little time to ramp it up a little bit and get ready."

Kronwall underwent arthroscopic surgery right before the All-Star break last season but said additional surgery in the offseason was not going to help unless he were ready to stop playing.

Kronwall said it's still too early to say whether he'll be ready for Oct. 13.

"I know it's only a week or so away," he said. "Moving in the right direction, no doubt, starting to feel pretty good out there but still a few steps more that need to be taken."

Zetterberg said they will decide in the next day or two whether he could play in the final preseason game Saturday.

"It would be nice to get one in," Zetterberg said. "I don't think it's optimal to go straight into Tampa, but in the same way we're not doing it if it's going to risk anything."

Zetterberg said the initial plan is for him to play on Frans Nielsen's wing.

"It's like playing with Pav(el Datsyuk)," Zetterberg said. "Even though one of us played as a wing we both, whoever is first back is playing center. I think that's going to be pretty similar playing with Frans."

FAMOUS PHOTOBOMB: Who knew that having two players in the penalty box would provide such a great moment for a couple of Wings and their fans?

By now it seems everyone has seen the adorable Instagram photo of 4-year-old Lylah Almas with Larkin and Steve Ott smiling from the box in the background.

ABC News, FOX Sports, ESPN SportsCenter and others have shared the photo. SportsCenter's reposting already has 185,000 likes.

"I've probably been doing that for a long time with a lot of teammates and I'm sure a lot of guys in the league would do the same thing in a heartbeat but now with the way social media is these days, it's changed lives dramatically when things go viral like that and it's actually good stories," Ott said after Tuesday's practice. "When there's news that makes you smile rather than sad that goes on every single day, it's nice to have the good ones."

Larkin credited Ott with the idea of the smiling photobomb.

"How do you resist a little cutie that's looking at you through the glass?" Ott said. "No matter the circumstances, we're always blessed to play this game and to have the opportunity that you can relate with a fan when it's through the glass at anytime, hopefully she looks at that picture when she gets older and smiles about it."

Larkin has enjoyed seeing the photo get so much attention.

"It was pretty cool that we actually got to see the picture," Larkin said. "Usually you take a picture with a fan and it doesn't get the reaction like that. It was something pretty cool that we did."

Both Ott and Larkin agreed that Lylah was the one who made the photo.

"She definitely makes the picture," Larkin said. "I wouldn't give the cuteness to Otter or myself. She's cute."

Ott has a daughter Layna that is a few years older than Lylah and a 19-month-old son, Maverick, so he immediately noticed Lylah and her family.

"Obviously she's right beside us there in the box and her family's there and they're on the glass and they're wearing Red Wings stuff and supporting us," Ott said.

"Maybe we were the lucky ones to be in that picture."

PULKKINEN PLAYING: Teemu Pulkkinen will make his preseason debut tonight in Chicago.

Pulkkinen underwent left shoulder surgery on June 6 and has been practicing with the team for a while.

Blashill said Pulkkinen will be on a line with Justin Abdelkader, also making his preseason debut, and Dylan Larkin.

"I want to see him tonight against hopefully a good Chicago lineup," Blashill said. "We haven't had a real chance to evaluate our guys against real good lineups. I'm hoping that we get a good lineup tonight out of Chicago and we'll get a chance to see him and see what his impact on the game is."

Pulkkinen has demonstrated at the AHL level that he can score, putting up 61 points (34 goals) in 46 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Now Pulkkinen has to show that scoring ability at the NHL level on a consistent basis.

"He has a right shot and if he could add that element of scoring and do what I talked about in camp, demand that you stay here," Blashill said. "How do you demand to stay here? You do what you do to the best of your ability. You separate yourself from the rest of the group. He can separate himself by scoring for certain. Playing good defense and working hard are non-negotiable. You have to do that. If he can separate himself by scoring, that will give him the best chance to have the ice time he wants."

LINEUP FOR CHICAGO: The Blackhawks should be dressing more of their top players for tonight's preseason game at the United Center.

Here is the Wings' lineup:

Forward lines:

Justin Abdelkader-Dylan Larkin-Teemu Pulkkinen

Andreas Athanasiou-Darren Helm-Anthony Mantha

Eric Tangradi-Louis-Marc Aubry-Mitch Callahan

Tyler Bertuzzi-Matt Lorito-Martin Frk

Defense pairs:

Danny DeKeyser-Alexey Marchenko

Jonathan Ericsson-Ryan Sproul

Brian Lashoff-Dan Renouf

Blashill said Jimmy Howard would be in goal with Edward Pasquale the backup.

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