Wings get Kronwall’d

Defenseman Niklas Kronwall will return to the lineup tonight for the Detroit Red Wings after going down on Nov. 21 with a sprained knee.

“It’s nice to have him back,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We need a boost right now. I don’t think we played very good the other night. I thought L.A. was better, harder-working and more competitive than we were and I hadn’t seen that in a while.”

Kronwall will skate alongside his usual defense partner Brad Stuart, who has been one of the Wings’ most impressive and consistent players all year. Both players together add a very physical and gritty dimension to the Wings’ lineup.

The addition of Kronwall means the Wings are one step closer to becoming fully healthy. Injuries have plagued the team all season and players like Justin Abdelkader, who was slated to spend the season in Grand Rapids, have been called upon to fill the void. Tomas Homlstrom and Jason Williams are also preparing to return to the lineup soon and Johan Franzen expects to be back before the Olympic break.

The Wings may have some tough decisions to make in the near future as more skaters prepare to return from the IR. Salary cap issues as well as roster issues may force the Wings to move some bodies. When Williams and Holmstrom return, the Wings will be one man over the regulated 23-man roster. It’s expected that Justin Abdelkader will be sent down to Grand Rapids to create roster space. However, the Wings will face the same situation when Franzen returns, not to mention that Franzen’s salary will be back on the books which will put the Wings roughly $1.5 million over the cap. It’s expected that the Wings may move a body or two in order to accommodate Franzen. Derek Meech could become expandable at that time and the Wings may even choose to trade Drew Miller or Patrick Eaves. Brett Lebda has also been mentioned in trade talk in recent years, or the Wings could choose to move a player like Kirk Maltby, whose contract expires at the end of the season.

In other injury news, Andreas Lilja has been headache-free for nearly two weeks now. Lilja has been sidelined for nearly a year after sustaining a concussion in a fight with Nashville Predator defenseman Shea Weber. As a result, Lilja has experienced constant headaches since the bout and has been on the long-term IR for the Wings. Being symptom-free for nearly two weeks is certainly a step in the right direction and Lilja hopes to start negotiating a comeback date in the near future.

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