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REPORT: Hronek to Grand Rapids; Green, DeKeyser Near Return

With every passing day, the Red Wings get healthier and healthier. After starting the season with four of their six NHL defensemen on the injured reserve, the team suffered seven straight losses before finally registering a win on Saturday night against the Florida Panthers.

Since game one of the season, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, and Trevor Daley have returned to the lineup from their various tweaks from training camp and preseason. Now, it appears that Mike Green and Danny DeKeyser are close to returning as well.

After signing a two year, $10.75-million contract extension in the offseason, Green fell ill with a viral infection in his liver early in training camp. His return will add some much needed offense to the blueline, something that Dennis Cholowski has filled in for admirably. He’ll also likely bump Kronwall from the second powerplay unit. Green was Detroit’s highest scoring defenseman in 2017-18 with 8 goals and 33 points in 66 games. His nose for the net will surely add some confidence to a team that’s had trouble finding the back of it.

DeKeyser aggravated a preseason hand injury in Detroit’s matinee game against the Boston Bruins on October 13th. His return adds some stability in the defensive zone, where he’s expected to play a stay-at-home role. A Sunday return will have him matching up against Dallas’ very dangerous top line.

Hronek To Grand Rapids

The downside to these NHL returns is that the youth on Detroit’s blue line will shift back to Grand Rapids. Libor Sulak has already been sent back and now he’ll be joined by Filip Hronek, who played in six games this year before being a healthy scratch for the last three.

Hronek was Detroit’s 2nd round pick in 2016 and had a dynamic season in the AHL last year. His play in the NHL wasn’t bad, but it was shaky and lacked confidence. He’s a great skater and has an eye for open ice, but still needs to work on anticipating the play at that speed. This NHL stunt was good for him, but he could use some further development at the AHL level. I expect he’ll be the first call-up the next time the injury bug bites.

What’s Left

So what does a healthy NHL blue line look like for the Red Wings? There are still two young players getting regular playing time in Cholowski and Joe Hicketts. One of them will surely sit and Cholowski has undoubtedly earned a regular spot. That puts two players in an odd spot:

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS
Niklas Kronwall
NIKLAS KRONWALL
Mike Green
MIKE GREEN
Dan DeKeyser
DAN DEKEYSER
Trevor Daley
TREVOR DALEY
Jonathan Ericsson
JONATHAN ERICSSON
Dennis Cholowski
DENNIS CHOLOWSKI
EXTRAS
 

Joe Hicketts
JOE HICKETTS   

 

Nick Jensen
NICK JENSEN

This is pure speculation on my part, but Cholowski should definitely get the nod over Hicketts and, despite Nick Jensen’s fast start after a two game scratch, he won’t get the nod over any of the other vets.

With everyone healthy, Detroit’s got a bit of a logjam and that’s because Cholowski has played so well. That’s good. It’s what we want to see, but it means he’s pushing someone else out of a job. There may be a trade market out there for Jensen, but until Ken Holland can get on the phone, he’ll likely be watching from the press box.