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DeKeyser feeling better five months after surgery

Wings defenseman busy rehabbing, enjoying baby girl

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji / DetroitRedWings.com

It has been a while since Red Wings fans have seen defenseman Danny DeKeyser on the ice.

The lanky blueliner played just eight games this past season, the last coming Oct. 22 at home against the Vancouver Canucks, before undergoing back surgery on Dec. 17, 2019.

DeKeyser appeared on The Word on Woodward this past Tuesday and said he's been far from idle.

"I'm doing good," DeKeyser said. "It's definitely been a little bit different - obviously it's been different for everybody, but just a lot of at-home time, a lot of family time, and I've actually been really busy. I have a newborn and a 2-year-old at home so I really don't have much down time."

Instagram from @m_dekeyser: Welcome to the world Claire DeKeyser 💗4/6/2020 10:24pm 7lbs 20 1/2 inchesYour sister is in heaven having you home sweet girl!

DeKeyser and his wife, Melissa, welcomed baby Claire on April 6. She joins big sister McKinley, who turned 2 at the end of February.

While DeKeyser has been able to do his rehabilitation from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has limited his contact with the Wings' training staff.

"I haven't really had a lot of team treatment, that's been the one downside to this whole quarantine is not being able to get treatment from the team and our staff and trainers there," DeKeyser said. "But I've been doing some FaceTime and getting all my workouts sent to me here at home. So I'm able to stay up on all the rehab exercises and all the workouts. It's obviously been a little bit different but it's been good.

"I'm feeling a lot better, which is good. It took me a little bit to kind of feel better again but I've finally gotten over that hump, I think. Definitely doing a lot better and I'm looking forward to skating, hopefully soon, when we get back on the ice. Obviously we don't know when that will be yet."

Video: Danny DeKeyser | The Word on Woodward | 5/19

In that Oct. 22 game, DeKeyser played just 18:29 and did not return after the 12:21 mark of the third period.

DeKeyser said it wasn't a specific play in that game that caused his back injury.

"I think my back was something that was just kind of progressively getting worse and a week or so before that, I had missed a game, I was kind of a late scratch out west," DeKeyser said. "I think it was in Vancouver (Oct. 15) actually. It was just kind of something that progressively, I guess, got worse on me and it got to the point where they had to go in and fix it up. I was trying to rehab it and trying to make it better through other means other than surgery but in the end, I had to get the operation done."

DeKeyser said he worked with the team's trainers to develop a plan to build himself back up after a long layoff.

"It's all kind of laid out in a progressive manner. We started slow and it's starting to build up more and more each week, or every couple weeks, with different stuff," he said. "It's been going good. Definitely feeling a lot stronger and a lot better. I'm just ready to start playing hockey again. I only played eight games this year so it's tough when you go through a full summer last year of offseason training, then you go through training camp and the preseason and all that and then your season ends so early in the year. So that was definitely tough.

"Having to wait from December through April to the end of the season, just have to watch all the games, that was definitely tough. This year, I'm hoping to stay healthy and have a good year because I'm excited to get back playing again."

Although it was difficult to watch, especially as the Red Wings struggled without him, DeKeyser did see some signs that pointed toward a brighter future.

"I think a lot of guys developed this year and I think there were a lot of guys who learned what it's going to take to play in the NHL," DeKeyser said. "Obviously points-wise and standings-wise, it was not a great year for us, not where we want to be ever again. So you gotta look at the positives and I think there were guys that got a taste of the NHL and what it's gonna take to play in the league and compete in the league for a long time, not just kind of kick the can around for two or three years and be playing somewhere else. I think guys realize what they need to do to try to stick in the lineup and give themselves a chance at having a 10 or a 15-year career."

Filip Hronek was one player who was given a lot more ice time and responsibility in DeKeyser's absence.

But there are other young defensemen in the system whom DeKeyser thinks could be a big part of the team's future.

"I think (Gustav) Lindstrom, when he was up, I was a huge fan. I thought he played great," DeKeyser said. "He had great poise and I could tell he always has his head up, when he's got the puck, he's got his head up and he's making good plays, making good decisions and he just sees the ice really well. I think he's gonna be a good player for us.

"I think same with (Moritz) Seider. I haven't really seen Seider play as much, he wasn't up with us last year, he was up in the preseason a little bit. He's a big kid, he can skate, he's got a long stick, long reach, so I think he can definitely put himself in a position to be a top-two defenseman in the league."

With all these young defensemen coming up, it means DeKeyser is no longer the kid on the blue line.

Now he's the veteran that those kids will be looking to for advice and guidance.

"Obviously it goes by quick," DeKeyser said. "I still feel like I was just coming out of Western Michigan like, a couple years ago and it's been, I think, eight years now. It flies by and suddenly I'm one of the older guys on the team. I definitely want to make the younger guys feel comfortable because I think when you're comfortable and you walk into the room and you're not nervous, that's when you're playing your best is when guys are pushing you a little bit but also at the same time, making you feel like you belong there as well.

"For me, that's what I try to do with some of the younger guys is just kind of make them feel like they belong and make them feel comfortable and give them the best shot of going out there and playing their best. I think that's what I'll keep doing. If I need to be a little bit more vocal, I can do that. But we'll just play it how it goes."

Playing it how it goes is the way it has to be for the entire team at this point.

The state of Michigan remains under a "Safer at Home" order that was extended to May 28, so no one has been able to head to the rink to skate.

If the Wings are able to resume skating at the BELFOR Training Center at Little Caesars Arena, that might mean DeKeyser could play if the NHL tries to finish the remainder of the 2019-20 regular season this summer.

"I think it all depends on when that might be," DeKeyser said. "I'm not ruling out that if we do end up playing the rest of our games sometime this summer that I could be there. I'm hoping to be, that would be great. But at the same time, I'm going to need some time to get back on the ice. It's going to take me a while because I've been out for so long. I haven't really skated at all since December. Obviously that's a really long time. Once I do get back on the ice and I'm cleared to do that, I'm just going to have to build up slowly because there's a mental side after an injury where you just can't rush into things. It's kind of a slow progression.

"I'm looking forward to getting back on the ice and I'm not ruling out any return this summer. I'm just not sure yet."

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