Wings’ DeKeyser open to pairing with Green

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — The idea does interest defenseman Danny DeKeyser.

Nothing is determined yet, but one thing new Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill did bring up earlier this summer was the possibility of DeKeyser playing with defenseman Mike Green, one of the team’s big free-agent acquisitions.

The pairing would make sense, given Green’s offensive abilities and DeKeyser’s defensive strength.

If it happens, DeKeyser is up for it.

“He’s a great player, has a great shot from the point, he moves the puck out of the defensive zone fast,” DeKeyser said Wednesday morning, going over what Green adds to the Red Wings. “I haven’t really talked to the coaching staff, I don’t know what the pairings are, that’s news to me, but he’s a good player and if we end up paired together, it’ll be a good combo.”

At 25, DeKeyser is beginning his third full pro season and still can learn and broaden his game from watching a player like Green.

“He likes to jump into the play and has good offensive sense of when to go and when to stay,” DeKeyser said. “I can definitely learn from him. He finds holes and he can put pucks into the net.”

DeKeyser was the guest instructor Wednesday at the Red Wings’ annual youth clinic, although you had to squint a little bit to recognize him.

Gone is his trademark mullet.

“It was getting hot at the time this summer and I had long hair at the time,” DeKeyser said of his decision to cut the mullet. “When you’re swimming it gets in the way.

“It was a good change. It feels good.”

There was a bit of a change in DeKeyser’s game last season as his offensive contributions increased. He earned some power-play time, attempted to get more involved in the offense, and posted a career-high 31 points (29 on assists).

With the offensively dynamic Green aboard, DeKeyser believes the Red Wings’ defense can contribute more than it has on offense.

“That would be great,” DeKeyser said. “The last few years maybe the back end, we wanted to contribute a little more than we have. (Niklas) Kronwall has been the leader with that but bringing in another guy like Green, who will bring some offense, it’ll help out a ton.”

DeKeyser is also anxious to reunite with Blashill, who recruited DeKeyser to Western Michigan — where they were together a season — and the two were then together for one playoff American League Calder Cup-winning playoff series in Grand Rapids in 2013.

Like previous Red Wings players who’ve participated in this week’s youth camp, DeKeyser sees Blashill as the perfect replacement to Mike Babcock.

“He demands a lot from his players,” DeKeyser said. “He pushes them to be the best they can be. He’s open-minded about things, easy to talk to, and he’s a good coach who knows his stuff.

“When he coached me in college I just saw a lot of the good qualities in him. On the ice he made sure everyone knew what they were doing and we were prepared for every game and situation.

“A lot of guys have built good chemistry with him having played for him in Grand Rapids.”

DeKeyser is anxious to get training camp started in approximately a month and begin to forget about last season’s disappointing first-round playoff loss to Tampa Bay.

“We had a chance to go up 3-1 in the series, and even then, we had a chance to close it out at home and didn’t,” said DeKeyser, pinpointing two crushing defeats before losing the series in Game 7. “You’re left feeling bitter about it but there’s nothing you can do about it now except come into next year and play hard.”