After missing the first 11 games of the season because of a knee injury, Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall made his regular season debut last Friday night against Winnipeg.
Detroit has just one win in three games since Kronwall’s return, but there’s no doubt that he’s an important piece of their defense.
The problem is that his knee won’t ever be 100 percent healthy again, which means the coaching staff will have to manage his minutes to keep him fresh over the course of a long season.
The 35-year-old played 18:14 in his first game back, 20:17 two nights later against Edmonton and 20:21 in Tuesday’s game against Philadelphia.
“I think we have to be a little bit careful, but it’s hard to have Kronwall on your bench and not play him,” head coach Jeff Blashill said, per the Detroit Free Press. “When the game is on the line, and every game is on the line, you’ve got a Kronwall that’s poised under any kind of pressure. I’m glad we’re getting these kind of minutes out of him, but we’re going to have to make sure we manage it.”
Since returning, his possession stats have been up and down. He posted a solid CF% of 59.09 in his first game, but followed that up with 36 and 38.24 percent performances. Of course, anytime a veteran comes back from a long-term injury, it takes them time to get their legs back.