Wings’ DeKeyser trying to find footing since return
Detroit — It’s not easy being injured, then expecting to jump right back into the lineup seamlessly when healthy.
Defenseman Danny DeKeyser is finding that out these days.
DeKeyser missed 17 games after injuring his ankle Oct. 10 in Dallas, returning Nov. 19.
It’s never easy to miss that many games — particularly at the start of the season — when everyone is still attempting to round into peak form.
Since returning, DeKeyser has found it a struggle, still not registering a point (he has no points in 13 games overall), and is minus-10 in the 10 games.
“It’s hard to miss a large chunk of the year, especially at the beginning of the year,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “He’s tried to work himself back in with real important minutes, and it’s not an easy thing at all.
“Obviously some of that plus-minus, we’ve had some games here, 10-1 and 6-1 (defeats), you can rack up some minuses in a hurry.
“But I would say he’s been somebody who has been finding his game and doing it against the other team’s best players.”
DeKeyser is averaging just under 19 minutes of ice time (18:47), which is down from last season.
But the addition of Trevor Daley, and good early season play from Mike Green and return to health of Jonathan Ericsson (who missed some of the second half of last season), has contributed to DeKeyser getting less ice time.
“We need him (DeKeyser) to continue (improving) and take those steps and be a shutdown-type of player who can get the puck out of your end,” Blashill said.
Goaltender Petr Mrazek has only appeared in 10 games this season, which has spurred rumors of Mrazek being traded, with the Red Wings seemingly committed to veteran Jimmy Howard.
Mrazek has a 2-4-1 record, with a sky-high 3.73 goals-against average and .888 save percentage.
“I have confidence in both guys,” Blashill said. “But right now, Jimmy is the guy we’ve gone with, and at some point when Petr gets an opportunity, he has to make sure he’s great. We need great team defense and great goaltending to win.
“I’ve said this from the start of the year. We’re in a playoff game every night, and so my job is to put the linup in that I think gives us the best chance to win the hockey game.”
Blashill wouldn’t reveal his lineup, but indications were Luke Witkowski would remain in the lineup, capable of being used at either forward or defense.
… Blashill coached young Boston defenseman Charlie McAvoy at the world championships and was impressed. McAvoy (4 goals, 11 assists) could be in the running for NHL rookie of the year.
“He’s a little like (Bruins teammate) Torey (Krug, Livonia native) in that they’re gamers,” Blashill said. “They play to win, they don’t play afraid to lose and they manage their game well.”