Detroit — The Red Wings basically haven’t had Danny DeKeyser all season, and now it appears they won’t for the rest of the season.
Coach Jeff Blashill said DeKeyser was set to undergo back surgery Tuesday and probably will miss the remainder of the regular season.
The veteran defenseman only played eight games, with four points (all assists), and an even plus-minus rating. He hasn’t played since Oct. 22 against Vancouver.
“DK will be out for a significant amount of time,” Blashill said. “Months. We’ll see (about potentially the rest of the season). Yes (it’s a possibility).
“He was headed in the right direction, and last week he suffered a setback.”
DeKeyser had been skating, and Blashill reported some progress recently, but things went south in recent days.
The Red Wings have DeKeyser, 29, under contract for two more seasons on a six-year contract worth $30 million ($5-million salary cap hit).
The Wings came into this season expecting DeKeyser to be the team's No. 1 defenseman, and helping some younger defenseman ease into lesser roles.
But injuries to DeKeyser, and fellow veterans Mike Green and Trevor Daley, have shredded those plans.
“From the time he’s gotten hurt, it has been a huge impact on our team because he’s our top defenseman,” Blashill said. “He’s a super underrated player in the league. He’s one of the better defenders in the league, one of the better guys at moving the puck and being efficient in things, I think, good defensemen do.
“We’ve played without him for a long time, so not having him potentially for the (rest of the) season, not having him is the reality of our situation, so we have to face the reality head on. That means other guys will have to step up and play real good hockey.
“Is it challenging? Sure, it’s challenging. But we were planning to have him back, and he was making progress, but he had a setback and this is where we’re at today.”
The Wings also were without defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (nose) Tuesday after getting hit on the face during Sunday’s game — Ericsson was placed on injured reserve — and recalled defenseman Brian Lashoff from Grand Rapids.
The Wings sent goaltender Jimmy Howard down to Grand Rapids on a conditioning assignment. Howard was to play Tuesday in San Diego, and could stay with the Griffins through the weekend — or return to Detroit — depending on how he feels.
“He’s going to play (Tuesday), and we’ll figure it out from there,” Blashill said. “We’re not beholden to either situation. We’ve certainly discussed both.”
For a goaltender, an opportunity to face game action in prepration of returning to NHL games is quite different than a forward or defenseman.
“It’s just way different preparation,” Blashill said. “You don’t get the chance to practice a lot. When there’s three goalies and you’re not one of the two in (the lineup), this gives him the chance to go down and face that live action, and that’s huge for a goaltender, especially.
We can ease Mo (Anthony Mantha, just returning from injury) into the game, (but) you can’t ease a goalie. If Mo makes a mistake, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s in your net. But if a goalie makes a mistake, it’s in your net.
“It’s a great situation for him (Howard).”
Howard, 35, hasn’t played since being injured Nov. 27, during a 6-0 loss to Toronto.
In 14 games this season, Howard, who can be an unrestricted free agent after this season, is 2-11-1 with a 3.94 goals-against average and .887 save percentage.