As I’m sure you know by now, Niklas Kronwall is slated for a return to the lineup tomorrow. This is huge for the Wings. His presence should have a trickle-down effect on all of the defensive pairings, as well as the offense. Having him in the lineup allows us to rid ourselves of either Lebda or Meech. My money’s on Meech sitting because Lebda occasionally has flashes of brilliance in which he appears to be a real, live NHL defenseman. Granted, they’re few and far between, but they do exist. Meech just goes out there and skates around and does…I don’t really know. He should be an evangelical preacher because every time he sets foot on the ice, a million Wings fans start praying. Stuart and Kronwall were dynamite together before Georges Laraque saw fit to remove him from the Wings’ lineup, and his presence may help settle Stuart down after a rough patch. He’s also been sorely missed on the powerplay over the last couple of months. I have no idea what the Wings’ percentage is since the beginning of November, but it has to be close to single digits. How excited are you for a powerplay unit that doesn’t feature Derek Meech?
I was also surprised to hear that Andreas Lilja is potentially nearing a return. A couple of days ago, Mickey Redmond mentioned that he was close to returning, but I think we fans universally wrote that off as crazy talk. This impression was confirmed when Ken Holland said that nothing had changed regarding Lilja’s status. Lo and behold today, though, Lilja said that he had gone 13 straight days without a headache. Should he reach that elusive 14-day mark, he could potentially be cleared to play. (On a side note, we’re coming up on 11 months since his concussion. Can you imagine how rotten of a mood you’d be in if you’d been having almost constant headaches for that long? I’m pretty sure even my dog would’ve stopped liking me by now.) This would be another huge step for the defense because it would mean that a) we would also be rid of Lebda and b) Jonathan Ericsson could be paired with a more experienced defenseman who he could potentially learn something (good) from. I’ve been a critic of Lilja in the past, but he was looking pretty solid last season before he broke his head, and at any rate, he has to be better than Lebda.
On top of all this, Jason Williams is nearing a return to the lineup, Tomas Holmstrom is hoping to be back soon, and Johan Franzen is considering a miraculous pre-Olympic break return. I’d probably prefer that he wait until after the break because it’s basically two weeks of free rehab for him and there’s no sense rushing him back. I have no idea what this means for the salary cap, but I'll leave that to smarter folks to figure out.
If I were a member of another Western Conference organization, I’d be looking over my shoulder right about now. The Wings have been hanging in there on the periphery of the playoff race like some kind of zombie that you just can’t kill. Now that they’re finally getting healthy, I can’t imagine that the other teams in the West are thrilled about the idea of the Wings creeping up behind them.
We have a little less than three weeks until the Olympic break. A lot can happen in that amount of time. Let’s hope they’re good things. Also, it’s unbelievably fun to be writing about happy news for a change. All this excitement has put me in a pretty good mood. I’m starting to feel a strange sensation that may in seasons past have been called optimism.
Random semi-hockey related quote of the day:
My dad, while assessing the swelling on my newly-sprained ankle: “Just be glad you’re not a hockey player so you don’t have to worry about fitting it into a skate so you can go back out and play.”