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Kronwall to see a lot more playing time

The Detroit Free Press' Helene St. James interviewed Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock about the upcoming season including lines and defenseman Niklas Kronwall's playing time.

Given Lidstrom will play with Rafalski, who will be Kronwall's defensive partner?

"Probably (Andreas) Lilja. The way I look at it, Lidstrom and Rafalski and Kronwall will eat up the minutes. Kronwall is going to get a real jump. It's time. He would have gotten it during the second half last year, but he was injured. The interesting thing to me is Ference, Quincey, Meech and the competition there. And Ericsson is in there -- he's 6-foot-5 and can skate and move the puck. And Jakub Kindl -- he's the most talented of the whole crew. He's just a kid, though. But we're excited about that. We feel we've got guys knocking on the door."

Winging it in Motown's first diary post came courtesy of adamgreuel who wrote that it was finally time for Kronwall to shine. I couldn't agree more. Kronwall has certainly seen more than his fair share of flukey injuries since joining the Wings. His first injury-free season was during the NHL lockout while playing for the AHL Grand Rapids Griffins where he had a great season.

Before the lockout in 2004 on January 22nd, Kronwall's skate got caught in a rut in the ice during pregame warmups resulting in a broken leg. In late September 2005, Kronwall tore his MCL and ACL in his left knee and missed most of the regular season. This past season, Kronwall's nose tip was nearly sliced off and required 25 stitches. He didn't miss much time, but had to wear a cage mask for over a month. Right before the playoffs, he suffered a broken sacrum and had to miss the entire postseason run. He should be 100% by the time training camp starts up next month.

I believe most Wings fans would agree that Kronwall needs a healthy season to fully develop and show what he can do out on the ice on the NHL level. He signed a five year contract worth $15 million last November and he needs to prove that he is worth the big money. Head coach Mike Babcock is prepared to give Kronwall a shot to do just that with increased ice time.

How do you compensate for the loss of Mathieu Schneider on the power play?
"Rafalski and Kronwall. Now we'll have a right-hand and left-hand shot in Rafalski and Lidstrom, (respectively), and Kronwall all over the ice. Kronwall really is a dynamic player."

If Kronwall can just stay healthy but still remain a physical player, I think we'll see some great play coming from the Swedish defenseman.