Brother battle brewing

WES GILBERTSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:06 AM ET

The Kronwalls have been on opposite sides plenty of times in the past.

Calgary Flames defenceman Staffan Kronwall grinned yesterday as he recounted his pre-teen battles with his older brother, Niklas, who now patrols the blueline for the Detroit Red Wings.

"We were playing in our yard -- playing land hockey, I guess -- for quite a few years. A couple battles out there," he said. "There's actually another one of us, so there were three guys going at it. We'd go one-on-one-on-one. It would be just everyone against everyone."

The numbers on the Flames' back-end are also a bit unusual.

Heading into tonight's tilt against the Red Wings at the Saddledome, the club continues to carry eight rearguards, meaning there's always a pair of healthy bodies in the press box.

Kronwall has suited up for five outings so far but hasn't been in the lineup since Cory Sarich returned from a foot injury almost three weeks ago.

Adam Pardy has appeared in nine games but just three during that span, while Aaron Johnson has only dressed twice.

"We've been playing really good hockey, winning good games. If I was a coach, I wouldn't change anything either, to be honest with you," Kronwall said.

"When you're a winning team, you can't mess things up, right? You've just got to stick with it."

The Flames are actually coming off a setback to the Colorado Avalanche, and there are indications bench boss Brent Sutter might shake up his third defence pairing tonight.

Kronwall, 27, skated with Mark Giordano during yesterday's practice session at the Dome, and Sutter said "there's a possibility" the lanky Swede would face off against his older brother.

"(Kronwall) has been a trooper through it all," Sutter said.

"We've got eight defencemen here, and we're gonna need all eight. It's a long season.

"We don't want someone staying out for very long and losing what he can bring to the table for us because of not having an opportunity to play."

There's no question Niklas Kronwall's name will be on the game-sheet.

Now in his sixth NHL campaign, the 28-year-old logs big minutes for the Red Wings and is a sure thing to join the Swedish Olympic team at the Vancouver Games.

He figures Staffan, too, has a bright future ahead of him.

"The bottom line is don't feel sorry for yourself and just keep working hard," he said.

"Hard work is going to pay off in the end. If he just sticks with it, certainly, he'll get his chance."

WES.GILBERTSON@SUNMEDIA.CA


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