Niklas Kronwall takes a maintenance day, should maybe take even more
The Red Wings took to the ice today at University Liggett in Grosse Pointe Woods today like they do on a pretty regular basis when the Joe Louis Arena is otherwise booked (this time for a comedy festival), getting ready for a pretty important matchup against the Penguins on Saturday afternoon. A good portion of the diggers were on hand to snap some photos and report for the fans.
#RedWings Abdelkader and Zetterberg on the rush. pic.twitter.com/GBj7NHFyhJ— Dana Wakiji (@Dwakiji) March 25, 2016
I can't help but notice how distracted Jonathan Ericsson looks by the camera and I'm wondering if banning all photography at games he plays might turn him into a Norris contender.
At any rate, it wasn't all good news for the Wings, as there was an important player missing from the action:
Only change for #RedWings in practice is Marchenko skating with Ericsson as Kronwall not on the ice. Other D pairs, lines same as last night— Dana Wakiji (@Dwakiji) March 25, 2016
The lines being the same isn't surprising, though we did learn from the Delicate Digger that of the two scratches, Teemu Pulkkinen worked in with the top six while Tomas Jurco worked in with the bottom six. So the forward lines looked like this:
However, Kronwall not skating was definitely of note here, though Alexey Marchenko directly taking his spot was and likely still is a really strong hint that Kronwall will be playing tomorrow against Pittsburgh. It didn't take too long for us to get confirmation that it was of course just a "maintenance day."
blashill said kronwall took a maintenance day off today and should be good to go tomorrow. will announce any other lineup changes then.— gregg krupa (@greggkrupa) March 25, 2016
So Kronwall, who you'll remember left the game on March 12th against the Rangers after awkwardly twisting his knee and who previously missed more than a month after having his knee scoped, is feeling right now like he shouldn't be practicing in an off day during the Red Wings attempt to make the playoffs.
While the knee he hurt in the Rangers game wasn't the same knee that was scoped in January, the initial reports of that injury had Kronwall out 1-3 weeks. He returned back to action exactly one week after leaving that game to play against Florida on the 19th.
The Wings during that time have seen two wins to one loss, but the results for Kronwall himself have been slightly more mixed. Kronwall does have three assists in that time (all secondary assists), but he has also been on the ice for eight out of the eleven goals scored against the Red Wings at even strength during that period, including all three third-period goals scored by the Canadiens in Thursday night's near-collapse victory.
Obviously, being paired with Jonathan Ericsson doesn't help things, but for fans watching the game, it's hard not to notice that Kronwall looks like he's yet another step down from the step he seems to have already lost and his lateral mobility has taken a turn for the worst. While he's one of the leaders in the locker room, his on-ice play has dropped to the point where I think the Wings are taking the gamble that he's still better than the alternative during a time that the Wings desperately need to be winning games.
Sadly, I don't agree right now; especially if Jeff Blashill is going to continue using Kronwall and Ericsson as the team's second defensive pair. They haven't played together every single shift, but during this last three-game stretch, at least one of Niklas Kronwall or Jonathan Ericsson has been on the ice for every single even-strength goal scored against the Red Wings.
Perhaps it's a case where Kronwall was rushed back too soon. Perhaps it's a case where keeping Ericsson and Kronwall together has hurt them both. Perhaps it truly is Jonathan Ericsson dragging Kronwall down, but if Kronner is taking a maintenance day at this point in the season after coming back as soon as possible from a sprained knee, I think I'd just as soon rather give Alexey Marchenko another chance to play.
Which Red Wings' defenseman should sit for Saturday's game against Pittsburgh?