DETROIT - If Danny DeKeyser hadn’t chosen to forego his senior year at Western Michigan University and sign with the Red Wings last March, he’d most likely be preparing for final exams.
The defenseman, who was majoring in public relations and had broadcasting aspirations, is very happy with the decision he made.
“I didn’t really know what was going to happen,” DeKeyser said. “I signed here because I thought I’d get a chance to play. It’s turned out to be pretty good.”
Pretty good would probably be considered an understatement. DeKeyser made his NHL debut with the Wings on April 5, 2013, and appeared in 11 games at the end of the 2012-13 season. The defenseman’s postseason was cut short, though, after he fractured his right thumb in Game 2 of the Anaheim series.
Beginning Friday night in Boston, DeKeyser is looking forward to participating in a full playoff run with the Wings.
“Definitely. Hopefully stay healthy this year,” DeKeyeser said. “I was disappointed I didn’t get to play, but I made it back this year so I’m looking forward to it.”
The 24-year-old plans to use what little experience he did gain during the two games he appeared in against Anaheim to his full advantage.
“Yeah I just played two games but the pace and the tempo goes up and attention to detail as well so everybody has to be ready to play out there,” DeKeyser said.
If nothing else, the defenseman can reflect on his time with the Grand Rapids Griffins, in which he helped lead Detroit’s minor-league affiliate to the 2013 Calder Cup championship.
“That was some really good playoff hockey as well,” DeKeyser said. “A lot of us that were in that got a good taste of what a long playoff run is like and I think that will help us this year.”
The increase in DeKeyser’s confidence on the ice is bound to help, too. Through 65 regular-season games this year, the defenseman earned four goals and 19 assists, and boasted a plus/minus rating of +10 while consistently playing top-four minutes.
“Just being here the whole year, being at training camp has really helped me out,” DeKeyser said. “I’ve learned a lot this year of what it’s going to take to be a good pro for many years to come. That’s helped me out a lot.”
The Detroit, Michigan native has worked on being more confident with the puck and taking care of his zone, and has grown increasingly comfortable in his role.
“When you have a good role on the team that gives you confidence,” DeKeyser said. “It helps you throughout the season knowing that the team and coach has faith in you. That’s a good thing.
“They showed that last year and that helped me out especially being the new guy on the team.”
ONE STEP CLOSER: Henrik Zetterberg made his long awaited return to practice with the Red Wings on Thursday.
“It felt good,” said Zetterberg, who has been skating on his own for over a week. “It’s fun to be out there with the boys again and like I said I didn’t do that much today but the stuff I did felt good and I’m looking forward to next time.”
Zetterberg will travel with the team to Boston where he will ramp up his activities in the days ahead. No timetable for his return to the Wings’ lineup has been established.
“I think today is just one of the steps that I have to take,” Zetterberg said. “I have to start skating with the team a little bit and it was fun to be out there today and didn’t do that much but hopefully I can do more tomorrow.”
Zetterberg finished the regular season with 16 goals and 48 points with a plus-19 rating in 45 games. He last played for the Red Wings in their 4-2 loss at Tampa Bay on Feb. 8.
OCTOPI HOCKEYTOWN: Octopi Hockeytown is in full swing at Joe Louis Arena as the Red Wings embark on their historic 23rd straight playoff run.
In conjunction with the playoff campaign, the Wings transformed the stairs leading up to the West Entrance of Joe Louis Arena with a large graphic of “Al the Octopus” on Thursday.
"We're excited that the Octopi Hockeytown movement has broken through the stairs at Joe Louis Arena,” said Bryan Durren, creative director for Olympia Entertainment/Detroit Red Wings. “We think it makes a dramatic backdrop for the 2014 playoffs and a great photo opportunity for fans as they Octopi their own social media."
Fans are encouraged to use the hashtag #OctopiHockeytown for a chance to see their message on OctopiHockeytown.com. Lucky fans who use the hashtag on Instagram will have an opportunity to see their photo on digital advertisements across the Metro Detroit area.
OctopiHockeytown.com serves as the online hub for fans to show their support for the team, partake in digital contests and join the “Octopi Hockeytown” movement through social media.
Follow Andrea Nelson on Twitter @Nelson_Andrea
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