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DeKeyser could be key player for Red Wings

Monday, 09.23.2013 / 1:27 PM ET / News
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DeKeyser could be key player for Red Wings

Predictions of the Red Wings' remarkable run of postseason appearances finally coming to an end is starting to become a rite of spring. After all, there is no shortage of reasons prognosticators love to point to: Nicklas Lidstrom's on-ice presence is gone; the Wings, now four years removed from their last conference final appearance, are in general decline; and of course the always popular "the roster is getting too old."

Despite these arguments, Detroit doesn't appear ready to take May off just yet. If there is a potential Achilles heel to point to, however, it might be Detroit's defensemen. Aside from the likely top pair of Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson, the group doesn't quite have the depth Wings fans are used to.

This is where defenseman Danny DeKeyser comes in.

At the start of last season, Detroit's defense was a minefield of questions following the departures of Lidstrom and Brad Stuart. While Jakub Kindl, Kyle Quincey and Brendan Smith managed to keep the Red Wings afloat on the back end, it wasn't until DeKeyser joined the team in the season's late stages that the defense truly stabilized.

After finishing his junior year at Western Michigan University, the Detroit native opted to sign with his hometown team. He played a total of 13 regular-season and Stanley Cup playoff games and was emerging as a key figure on the back end before a broken right thumb ended his season.

Upon his return from injury, DeKeyser helped lead Detroit's American Hockey League affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, to the 2013 Calder Cup title.

That brief stretch was enough to impress not only the decision-makers in Detroit, but USA Hockey, which invited DeKeyser to its Olympic orientation camp this summer.

DeKeyser had proven his effectiveness in the short period before his injury, shoring up Detroit's blue line with his large frame (6-foot-3, 190 pounds) and ability to spark the transition with passes out of his end.

"He already got a taste of it last year," Kronwall told the Detroit Free Press this month. "He came in and did unbelievable. Coming in now, he knows what to expect and he knows what's expected of him. I think he's going to do really well."

Considering Detroit was one win away from eliminating the eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference semifinals, one must wonder what kind of difference DeKeyser might have made against players like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Barring a sophomore slump, having DeKeyser back on defense this season could pay tremendous dividends for a team that already is strong up front and in net. If he plays like he did during his brief stay in Detroit last season, he has the potential to bring the Red Wings stability in the one area that could be perceived as a weakness.

Despite the apparent ease with which he adapted to the NHL, DeKeyser will face several obstacles in his first full pro season, like adapting to an 82-game schedule. DeKeyser never played more than 42 games in his three seasons with Western Michigan.

"I'm just going to try to take it up another notch," DeKeyser told the Detroit Free Press recently. "Just going to try to have a good season. It's a long season; 82 games will be a bit of a grind. Just have to battle through that and have a good season."

If that grind doesn't wear DeKeyser out, he could be one of Detroit's better defensemen.

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 248 187 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 237 199 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 245 224 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 217 204 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 227 248 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 212 223 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 176 209 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 183 219 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
H. Zetterberg 77 17 49 -6 66
P. Datsyuk 63 26 39 12 65
T. Tatar 82 29 27 6 56
G. Nyquist 82 27 27 -11 54
J. Abdelkader 71 23 21 3 44
N. Kronwall 80 9 35 -4 44
R. Sheahan 79 13 23 -3 36
D. Helm 75 15 18 7 33
D. DeKeyser 80 2 29 11 31
S. Weiss 52 9 16 -2 25
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Howard 23 13 11 .910 2.44
P. Mrazek 16 9 2 .918 2.38

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