–D Niklas Kronwall wants to finish his career with the Wings, and the club is hoping to sign him to a long-term extension this season, well before he becomes eligible for unrestricted free agency on July 1. Kronwall, a highly-skilled puck mover with a penchant for crunching open-ice hits, supplanted Nicklas Lidstrom as the team’s leader in ice time in the playoffs. Coach Mike Babcock plans to give Kronwall more minutes than any other player this season.

–LW Jiri Hudler feels stronger, quicker and in much better shape after spending the summer working with UFC trainer Jonathan Chaimberg. The 5-10, 182-pound Hudler doesn’t plan on trading punches with anybody, but he is fighting to resurrect an NHL career that took a hit during a disastrous 2010-11 season, when he had only 10 goals and 27 assists. It was far below expectations for a player who put up career-high totals (23 goals, 57 points) in 2008-09, before spending one season in Russia.

–C Pavel Datsyuk wore jersey No. 24, instead of his usual No. 13, during the preseason to honor former teammate Ruslan Salei. Salei, who played for the Wings in 2010-11, former assistant coach Brad McCrimmon and former goaltending prospect Stefan Liv were among 44 people killed in the Sept. 7 plane crash in Russia involving KHL club Lokotomiv Yaroslavl. Datsyuk will switch back to No. 13 at the start of the regular season.

The one-two punch of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are two of the top two-way forwards in the league and they’re surrounded by a cast of secondary scorers like Johan Franzen and Dan Cleary, assuring the Wings of having one of the most potent offenses in the league.

Team defense must improve appreciably from 2010-11, when they ranked 23rd in the league in goals against.

“What we’ve been trying to do since the lockout is… trying to rebuild on the fly. We managed to get 100 points every year doing that. I remember when Stevie (Yzerman) and Shanny (Brendan Shanahan) left, you wondered what was going to happen. We were able to respond. Now Drapes (Kris Draper) and Ozzie (Chris Osgood) and Rafi (Brian Rafalski) have left. You have to find a way to respond. That means different people get opportunities.” — Coach Mike Babcock.

Copyright (C) 2011 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.


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