Detroit – With their defensive corps challenged for another season to ease the pressure on the goalies and to manage more efficient exits from their own zone, the Detroit Red Wings are now without Danny DeKeyser for an extended period.
Coach Jeff Blashill said DeKeyser is out an additional 10 to 21 days, and will not skate at all for a week on the advice of doctors, to rest his injured ankle.
Hoping for a bounce-back after regressing when placed in the role of essentially the top defenseman last season, DeKeyser played in the first two games, got injured in the third, and now risks losing 18 of the first 21 games of the season.
“Danny, right now, we’re going to keep him off the ice for a week,” Blashill said.
“As he was progressing, as we ramped up to more live battle level, it started to hurt him, more so. We re-evaluated it today, and docs want to hold him out for a week and then see where it’s at.
“So, for me, right now, it would be 10 to 21 days, before he can play in a game.”
Blashill said surgery is not a consideration.
DeKeyser blocked a shot with a leg turned a bit outward, against the Stars Oct. 10. The puck struck him from close range, hard and awkwardly off the inside of his foot.
In his fifth season with the Wings, the 27-year-old defenseman has played in 319 career games, 19 more than the traditional mark for hard judgments on a young NHL defenseman.
But an important season for DeKeyser may now be on hold for the first quarter of the campaign.
Joe Hicketts, who looked strong offensively in preseason, driving the power play at times and body-checking aggressively, has appeared in nine games in Grand Rapids.
Hicketts has three assists and is plus-1.
The Wings are curious to see whether he eventually plays enough defense to stick in the NHL.
But Blashill said a call-up is unlikely during DeKeyser’s extended convalesce, and that he would play Luke Witkowski at the position first.
“We may at some point decided to; right now we don’t need it,” Blashill said of a call-up.
“Right now, the other guy that we’ve been practicing on ‘D’ that at some point I’m going to give a chance on ‘D’ is Witkowski.”
Jimmy Howard had another outstanding game against the Panthers Saturday, and Blashill discussed the dilemma of sticking with a hot goalie or playing a goalie who could use some time on ice, Petr Mrazek.
As is his policy and practice, however, Blashill did not tip his hand.
“There’s lots that goes into those decisions, for sure,” he said, exhibiting a willingness to discuss how the decision is made.
“Part of it is when a guy is good, playing him, and part of it is not letting a guy who you know is going to have an impact on your year go through any lull points.
“So, for sure, that’s part of your decision process.”
As for the decision? Patience is advised.
But Howard was mostly in the starters’ net during practice Monday.
BERTUZZI NEARS RETURN
Tyler Bertuzzi may play his first game this season as early as Friday, for Grand Rapids.
Bertuzzi’s inflamed wrist knocked him out of preseason and for what was expected to be four weeks of remedying rest.
Almost six weeks later, the Red Wings assigned Bertuzzi to the Griffins Monday.
They play Chicago in Van Andel Arena at 7 p.m. Friday.
COYOTES AT RED WINGS
Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
Notable: The Red Wings will attempt to stop their parade to the penalty box. Entering play Monday, they had the fifth-most penalties in the NHL. Under first-year head coach Rick Tocchet and touting a new, analytics-driven approach, the Coyotes are 0-10-1.