DETROIT – Niklas Kronwall is among the first defensemen recognized for his performance in a single seven-day span by the league this season when he and Chicago’s Duncan Keith were named second and third stars of the week, respectively, by the NHL on Monday.
Kronwall is off to the finest start of his 10-season career, leading the Red Wings’ defense with three goals and 21 points, which ties him for fourth with Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien among all league blue-liners.
For the second consecutive week, Pittsburgh center Evgeni Malkin was the league's top star, leading all skaters with nine points in four games.
Last week, Kronwall posted a trio of multi-point games with a goal and five assists in leading the Red Wings to three wins. He scored his third goal of the season – all of his goals have come on the power play – and added an assist in a 6-1 victory over Boston Bruins last Wednesday. Kronwall then posted a pair of two-assist games: in a 5-0 win over the New York Islanders last Friday and in a 4-2 victory at Ottawa on Sunday.
The 32-year-old has two goals and nine points during a six-game point streak dating to Nov. 21, including assists in five consecutive games. He missed two games in October with a concussion after a hard hit by Colorado’s Cody McLeod knock him out of the game in Denver on Oct. 18.
Since the Red Wings’ old guard of solid defensemen has departed, players like Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson have gained greater responsibility and leadership roles on the ice and in the team’s locker room. And it certainly hasn’t been easy this year amidst a slew of injuries along the blue line. Only Jakub Kindl and Kyle Quincey have appeared in all 28 games for the Red Wings, making it necessary for youngsters like Xavier Ouellet and Adam Almquist to make their NHL debuts.
“If you start being negative and you start feeling sorry for yourself, you're not really gaining anything,” Kronwall said last week. “All you're doing it digging the hole even deeper for yourself. In here, it's about trying to stay positive and think about the good things that we've been doing and really work on that and learn from the mistakes that we have been doing. Just stay positive and keep believing in the process."
Kronwall is the second Red Wings’ player so honored by the league this season. Backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson was named First Star for the week of Oct. 21. Gustavsson is now 7-0-1 with a 2.16 goals-against average, which ranks him No. 12 among league goalies with nine or more starts this season.
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose
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