DeKeyser's return creates glut of defensemen for Wings

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser has been out the last six weeks because of wrist injury.

Detroit — Danny DeKeyser will be back in the Red Wings' lineup Tuesday against Anaheim.

Who, eventually, sits, or maybe gets sent back to Grand Rapids — that would be Filip Hronek, in that likely scenario — remains to be seen.

The Wings bought a bit of time on the entire issue when forward Michael Rasmussen was put on the short-term injured list.

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But with DeKeyser — returning after missing six weeks because of a wrist injury — Dennis Cholowski, Jonathan Ericsson, Mike Green, Hronek, Nick Jensen and Niklas Kronwall all available (Trevor Daley (foot) is still a few weeks away), there’s a glut of defensemen.

Coach Jeff Blashill wouldn’t speculate as to whether he’d dress six or seven defensemen against the Ducks.

“We’ll make those lineup decisions, we’ll reveal those decisions after (pregame) warm-ups,” said Blashill after the morning skate. “The one thing I’d say is, when you bring an injured guy back, especially a guy like Danny DeKeyser, whois one of your top defensemen, that certainly doesn’t mean anybody played bad to come out. Anybody that comes out has played pretty good hockey in the last little bit.

“Our process over the last number of games has been good. Our defensive game has been good. Our zone time has been good. Every defenseman has an argument as to why he should stay (in the lineup). But those are good problems to have. It’s an opportunity to bring in a guy who night in and night out is one of your top two defensemen. It makes us better regardless, and whoever comes out, it’s not necessarily a refletion on poor play. It’s a decision you have to make.”

The likely scenario is Hronek, at some point, being sent back to Grand Rapids and continue getting a lot of playing time until a position can be created with the Wings.

With the trade deadline approaching in late February, there’s a possibility of Jensen (a potential unrestricted free agent) of being dealt, creating an opening.

DeKeyser, who last played December 4, was anxious to return to the lineup. DeKeyser’s only played 20 games this season — he had a hand injury early in the season — adding to the frustrating season.

“Obviously I would have liked to have been more on the ice more than that,” DeKeyser said. “That’s the way it goes sometimes. Stuff like this happens. The only thing you can do is get back in there and get back to speed. Missing six weeks in the middle of the season isn’t ideal. The pace picks up the second half of the season.”

Hometown guest

The Wings entertained NASCAR driver Erik Jones at Tuesday’s morning skate.

Jones, from Burton, won his first NASCAR race in July at Daytona, and getting ready for next month’s Daytona 500.

“It’s such a wild card every year,” said Jones of the Daytona 500. “We were fortunate to win (in July) but it’s still pretty much an unknown. You have to be pretty lucky to win one of those races along the way. It’s the Daytona 500 and everybody wants to win and start the year on the right foot.

“It sure would be nice to get locked into the playoffs after week one. That’s our mindset going in, with the chance to win and hopefully going for it.”

Jones gave replica helmets to Michigan-born players Justin Abdelkader, DeKeyser, Luke Glendening, Dylan Larkin and Luke Witkowski.

But if Jones had to choose one Wings’ player to ride shotgun with him, it would be on-ice agitator Tyler Bertuzzi.

“He’d be pretty good out there,” Jones said. “It would be fun to have him out there.”

Jones was thrilled to get an insiders’ view of how a pro hockey team prepares for a game.

“Every sport is so different and it’s neat to see how each one operates,” Jones said. “I’ve had a chance to be around football teams and baseball players, never really hockey — there’s not a lot of hockey in North Carolina — and it’s cool to see the process and how they prepare.

“It’s interesting to me they start so early in the day, 10:30, 11 in the morning, and they’re skating and getting ready. It’s cool to see the preparation starts so early for a game. (But) really, the work ethic they put in through the week, in practice and training, I think hockey players are some of the best athletes in the world, in their conditioning and strength.”

Blashill was a grand marshal at a Michigan International Speedway race several years ago and had an opportunity to experience the race up close.

“It was a real unbelievable experience,” Blashill said. “Just to see how the teams work, and everything that goes into it, you have no idea what goes into it until  you’re kind of in the middle of it a little bit.”

Ice chips

Tuesday was also the 11th annual Military Appreciation Night. More than 100 active and former military members were treated to a VIP experience during and after the morning skate.

… Blashill said Rasmussen likely wouldn’t be ready to play Friday in Calgary because he hadn’t practiced with the full team. Blashill wasn’t sure if Rasmussen would be ready before next weekend’s All-Star break.

Twitter: @tkulfan