How heavy a load can Detroit Red Wings’ Danny DeKeyser carry after missing a year?

Detroit Free Press

Helene St. James
| Detroit Free Press

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As long a layoff as the Detroit Red Wings have had as an organization, Danny DeKeyser’s dates back more than a year.

Friday marked the first time he took part in an official practice since October 2019. In the eighth game of the season the Wings’ leader in minutes played hurt his back, leading to back surgery that rendered him out for the season.

He missed hockey, and the Wings missed him.

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Much can happen in the less than two weeks before the Wings open a 56-slate on Jan. 14, but based on the first day of camp, DeKeyser looked good.

He felt it, too.

“I feel really good,” DeKeyser said Friday. “It’s been a long time, but I put in a lot of hard work this past year. I feel like I have to get back up to speed a little bit, especially when you have been out as long as I have been.

“That will be the biggest thing with me, getting back to that pace.”

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The Wings do have the advantage of pairing him with Filip Hronek; the two clicked when they played together in 2018-19. Jeff Blashill had the two together Friday, and also utilized DeKeyser as a point man on the first power play unit.

“I think for sure it’s huge if you have a little chemistry with somebody when you’re coming back from such a long layoff,” DeKeyser said. “Me and Blash had a little conversation just to make sure we are on the same page, how I am doing to start the year, how I am feeling.

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“That will be based on how some of my minutes are going for some of the games. But anytime you have chemistry with somebody when you’re coming back, it definitely makes you more comfortable to play.”


Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill recaps the first day of training camp

Jeff Blashill discusses the first day of Detroit Red Wings camp on Friday, Jan 1, 2021.

Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press

Blashill described DeKeyser as “moving pretty good. He felt confident. I think that’s the most important thing, is how he feels.

“A healthy DeKeyser is a huge thing for us. He’s been one of our top D over the last number of years. He can eat minutes, play against the other team’s best players, break you out of your zone so you have the puck way more so you don’t have to defend nearly as much. He’s a capable power play player as well.

“I think having a healthy DeKeyser is a big piece to us being able to have success. So it was certainly encouraging that he was out there today.”

DeKeyser reached out to former Wings defenseman Kyle Quincey, who also underwent back surgery. Quincey assuaged DeKeyser that a comeback was realistic.

“I think going into this year, my outlook on things is a little different, just because I am 30 and I’ll be 31 in March. I’m not a young kid any more. It’s harder for older guys to play in this league. But I am just happy to be around the rink again.

“I mean, I am sure all these guys are because they’ve been out for 10 months, but for me in particular, I feel lucky to be here today.”

Contact Helene St. James at Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail. 

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