The Detroit Red Wings dealt with injury issues in the 2014-15 season, losing roughly 160 man games to injury. Already they’re starting the 2015-16 season at a disadvantage, as they’ll be without Pavel Datsyuk for at least the first month of the season, but the injury news gets worse as Danny DeKeyser could be sidelined following an injury in Wednesday’s pre-season tilt with Pittsburgh.
According to Bill Roose of DetroitRedWings.com, DeKeyser was seen wearing a walking boot on his left foot and using crutches as he got to the team bus Thursday. After an MRI Thursday, it was determined the 25-year-old blueliner will miss 3-4 weeks, setting his timetable for return for late-October or early-November.
The injury occurred on a hit during a Red Wings power play, but DeKeyser finished the shift and took one more stab at getting out on the ice before leaving the game with less than three minutes remaining in the pre-season tilt.
Losing DeKeyser is a big blow for Detroit as the former NCAA standout has turned into a top-three defenseman for the Red Wings in just two short years in the NHL. This past season, DeKeyser set a career-high with two goals and 31 points in 80 games while skating nearly 21 minutes per game.
With the season approaching, the thought was coach Jeff Blashill would pair DeKeyser with Mike Green, but the hole vacated by DeKeyser’s injury could open the door for Xavier Ouellet, Alexey Marchenko or Nick Jensen could crack the roster for opening night. The likely candidate, however, is Jakub Kindl, who would fill a spot on the third pairing with Kyle Quincey shifting up to the second pairing alongside Green.
DeKeyser’s absence shouldn’t hurt the Red Wings too much on the offensive side of the puck, but he’s already shown great ability to skate the puck out of trouble and has been relied on heavily in defensive situations. While starting nearly 30 percent of his shifts in the defensive zone over the past two seasons, DeKeyser has managed a shot attempts for percentage of 51.5 percent.
The Red Wings will also need someone to eat the penalty kill minutes that DeKeyser plays. In 2014-15, he averaged nearly 2:20 per game on the penalty kill, making him the third-most utilized penalty kill defender Detroit had. Quincey already fills a spot on the second penalty kill unit, but Kindl played 2:20 — total — of shorthanded time in 2014-15. Green averaged little more than 30 seconds per game in Washington this past season.
Detroit has not finalized their opening night roster, though expect there to be at least one young blueliner remaining when the final cuts are made. Kindl likely won’t be Blashill’s long-term solution, so expect Marchenko or Ouellet to get a look as the seventh defenseman in Detroit.