DeKeyser reaches 'impressive' milestone with Wings

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News
Danny DeKeyser
Age: 30. Ht: 6-3. Wt: 190
2019-20 statistics: Eight games, zero goals, four assists, four points
Analysis: Returning after herniated disk surgery, which cost DeKeyser essentially the entire season. Looked good in camp, but the Wings likely will bring along DeKeyser slowly.

Detroit — Danny DeKeyser played in his 400th game on Sunday, skating 20 minutes, 46 seconds, the second most time on ice among Red Wings defensemen (Mike Green, 24:06), while collecting two hits and blocking a shot.

DeKeyser contributed to holding one of the top lines in the NHL — Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen — to one goal, before Landeskog added an empty net tally at 19:01 of the third period in a 2-0 loss.

DeKeyser has played in 19 of the Wings' 27 games this season.

“I had him on the ice as a junior hockey player, and didn’t draft him in the next draft,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “That’s the reality in the USHL.

“He went to Sioux City, and then I got him at Western (Michigan). I didn’t know that he was going to be this great freshman until I saw him on the ice.

“The very first time I saw him on the ice, I was like, 'Holy smokes, he’s got some great attributes.' He’s just carried that forward.”

While the Wings have added Trevor Daley and Green, and Niklas Kronwall has persisted despite knee problems, the Red Wings’ defense is largely reliant on DeKeyser for shutting down the opponents’ best players, as the team continues to rebuild the lineup.

“When he came to the NHL, I thought he’d be a good player,” Blashill said. “He’s been even better than I thought.

“I think this year Danny’s played really, really good.

“He’s been one of the guys I think has really brought his game up to another level. I think his physicality has been real good. His consistency’s been good.

“So, the fact that he’s got himself to 400 is impressive.”

Familiar foe

Jonathan Bernier started against his old team, the Avalanche, on Sunday and said he felt a little bit more excitement than usual headed into the game.

“Yeah, I think there is always more challenge when you go into those games,” Bernier said. “You don’t want to get too high or too low. You just want to go in there and play your game.”

Bernier yielded one goal, on the power play. The Avalanche also scored into an empty net.

“It’s always a weird feeling playing against your old team,” said Bernier, who is now 3-6-0 on the season. “Obviously, we know their first line is really good. But, we did a good job most of the night to be on top of them.

“I thought they got a little frustrated. It was just one of those games where they were better than us on the power play.”

Bash bros

Both Tyler Bertuzzi and Anthony Mantha gave good accounts of themselves in third-period fights against the Avalanche.

Bertuzzi landed a couple of clean lefts on Ian Cole, who had heavily body-checked Andreas Athanasiou in open ice moments before. And, then, Bertuzzi shifted his grip on Cole and his tactics in the fight and landed two hard uppercuts.

Mantha fired several right hands into the back of Patrik Nemeth’s head, one of which appeared to force a cry of pain from Nemeth, after the Avalanche defenseman hit Dylan Larkin high and hard against the boards.

Mantha appeared to suffer no ill effects, despite blasting his fist off a skull, repeatedly.

Blashill said he had no report of Mantha injuring his hand, which has helped deliver nine goals scored so far this season.

Twitter: @greggkrupa