Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader talks about playing with his fractured cheekbone. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
Detroit — Justin Abdelkader was back on the ice Monday, but you had to do a bit of a double-take to recognize him.
Trying to protect a fractured cheekbone Abdelkader was wearing at Monday’s practice — and will continue to wear — a face shield.
Abdelkader suffered the injury in a fight Thursday with Calgary’s Troy Brouwer.
Abdelkader missed Saturday’s game against Columbus, but is expected to play Wednesday in a rematch against the Flames.
“I’m lucky it’s not a displaced fracture; it could be a lot worse,” said Abdelkader, who’ll attempt to find a comfortable-fitting shield in the hours leading to Wednesday’s game. “Obviously it’s a frustrating injury, anytime something like this happen.
“But definitely I’m fortunate, too.”
The fracture didn’t reveal itself in X-rays during the game in Calgary, and the pain wasn’t bad enough, so Abdelkader returned into the game.
Which, looking back, Abdelkader got lucky.
“I was lucky nothing happened because when you have a fracture, and you get hit again, it can cause some damage,” Abdelkader said. “I saw the specialist (Monday) and he said I can play as long as I keep it protected.”
Abdelkader is likely to wear a protective helmet that’s similar to players returning from broken jaws, covering the injured area, but it’ll take a while getting used to it.
Abdelkader hasn’t worn a cage since playing at Michigan State.
“It’ll be an adjustment for sure, but If I want to play, it’s something I have to have,” said Abdelkader, noting the areas that will take getting used to. “The sightlines, and looking down and just having something there (a protective bar) rather than not having anything.
“It’ll take a little bit to get used to but hopefully not that long.”
Coach Jeff Blashill is simply pleased to see Abdelkader return to the lineup.
Though it was only one game Abdelkader was unavailable, the Red Wings missed his physical presence on the ice.
“He’s a commodity on this hockey team because of the size and skill package he brings,” Blashill said. “When he’s playing at his best, he’s a commodity in the NHL because of his size and skill package.
“He’s a big factor for us.”
DeKeyser getting closer
Defenseman Danny DeKeyser isn’t as close as Abdelkader is to returning to the lineup but DeKeyser, too, is nearing a return.
DeKeyser hasn’t played since Oct. 10 because of a hairline fracture and rolling his ankle while attempting to block a shot against Dallas.
DeKeyser participated in Monday’s practice, devoted more to skill work, and is hopeful of a return later this weekend or early next week.
“I haven’t done any battling or nothing like that,” DeKeyser said. “That was my first practice, so I have to do quite a bit more before I get to a game, whenever that is.
“It’s been almost five weeks, so it’s been a while.”
DeKeyser tried to get back on the ice a week after the injury “but I just wasn’t feeling right, so I had to stay off the ice for a few weeks and try it out as we went along.”
DeKeyser thought he was making progress about 10 days ago, but again was told to sit out, when the discomfort wouldn’t diminish.
Blashill wants to see DeKeyser skate in a few consecutive practices before setting a timetable for a return.
“It looks like he’s moving in the right direction,” Blashill said. “The good thing for him, he’s like Double-A (Andreas Athanasiou), he skates so well and when you skate well it’s easier to jump back in. Certainly the timing is different, but hopefully we can get him back sooner than later.”
Darren Helm and Trevor Daley didn’t participate in Monday’s practice. Blashill said it was a “maintenance day” for both, and expects both to be available Wednesday
… The skills work Monday dealt largely with scoring goals, as the Red Wings have failed to convert lately some quality scoring chances.
“We’ve had lots of chances and we need to score goals,” Blashill said. “We were working with a large emphasis on basically scoring more goals. We split the forwards up and were able to do some real good work, a chance to work on skill development and that’s critical.”
… Red Wings play-by-play announcer Ken Daniels will hold a question-and-answer format and signing Tuesday for his book “If These Walls Could Talk: Detroit Red Wings stories from the Ice, Locker Room and Press Box,” at 6:30 p.m. at the Dearborn Henry Ford Centennial Library.