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DeKeyser on D

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings
Danny DeKeyser, who suffered a foot injury in Pittsburgh Sept. 30, will make his season debut in Montreal tonight. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

MONTREAL -- Nothing like a big challenge for your first game of the season.

Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser, out since Sept. 30 with strained ligaments in his left foot, will make his regular-season debut tonight in Montreal.

"I'm excited," DeKeyser said after Saturday morning's optional skate. "It's been a little bit since I played a game, it's been a few weeks, so I'm chomping at the bit to get back out there and help the team."

Originally, doctors said DeKeyser would miss 3-4 weeks, so he's ahead of schedule.

"I just kind of took it as it went," DeKeyser said. "Every day it felt a little bit better so I was able to do a little bit more and be back a little bit earlier than expected."

With DeKeyser returning, Wings coach Jeff Blashill said defenseman Brendan Smith would be a healthy scratch.

The Wings will need all the help they can get against a Montreal Canadiens team that has started the season 5-0-0, a first in franchise history.

You'd need a magnifying glass to find Canadiens goalie Carey Price's flaws as he is 4-0-0 with a 1.25 goals-against average and .957 save percentage.

"Biggest test tonight by far," DeKeyser said. "We'll just have to make sure we bring our 'A' game tonight because they're a great team and they have a great goalie, so we gotta get in front of him and try to put pucks in the net."

The Canadiens have scored 16 goals and allowed just six.

Blashill said he would put DeKeyser with Mike Green, as he had wanted to from the beginning of camp.

But the two have not played much together as Green missed time in the preseason with a groin injury and right when he returned, DeKeyser got injured.

"I think once we're both healthy and moving out there, I think we'll be a pretty good D pairing together," DeKeyser said. "We haven't played much together yet, a little bit in training camp and then to start the preseason but then he went down and then came back, then I went down. We'll just have to get that chemistry as the game goes on."

Green watched video of DeKeyser when he heard Blashill intended to pair the two.

DeKeyser said he's seen Green play many times.

"He moves the puck really well, he's a great skater," DeKeyser said. "It seems like he's a guy who's easy to play with out there so for me, it's just about moving the puck and getting him the puck and just making easy plays out there."

Although the Wings suffered their first loss against the Carolina Hurricanes Friday night, DeKeyser believes they have a good team.

"We've got good lines, D (defensemen) that are rotating through pretty evenly and two really good goalies so at any given point in any game, somebody can put it in the net," DeKeyser said. "It doesn't matter if it's first line or fourth line, we've got a lot of skill on this team."

IN MONTREAL: Tonight will mark Blashill's first game as the Red Wings' head coach in Montreal.

But it's not his first time on the bench at the Bell Centre.

"I've been on the bench once before in Montreal and it was not a good result," Blashill said. "It was a tough night. If I remember, they had seven and we didn't have very many. We're hoping it's a better night for us. This is obviously a special place, very, very special place. I totally understand that. I'm somebody who does believe in enjoying the journey and certainly when I step on the bench, I'll take a second to say this is really neat."

The game Blashill is referring to was Jan. 25, 2012, when he was an assistant coach with the Wings and they lost 7-2.

That night Jiri Hudler scored both Detroit goals. Mike Commodore, Dan Cleary and Darren Helm each had an assist.

Overall, the Wings are 70-174-43-2 in Montreal.

The Wings have lost six straight to the Canadiens, including three straight at the Bell Centre.

Their last win in Montreal was on Feb. 26, 2014, when Gustav Nyquist got the game-winner at 4:32 of overtime.

The Wings' last regulation victory at the Bell Centre was Dec. 4, 2007, a 4-1 win. Pavel Datsyuk had two goals and an assist, Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall also scored and Dominik Hasek got the win.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: On the Wings' side, Brad Richards has 10 goals and 15 assists in 42 games against the Canadiens, Green has three goals and 16 assists in 26 games and Henrik Zetterberg has three goals and eight assists in 13 games.

For the Canadiens, Tomas Plekanec has seven goals and five assists in 14 games against the Wings, Tom Gilbert has three goals and nine assists in 30 games, P.K. Subban has one goal and eight assists in 10 games, Max Pacioretty has four goals and four assists in nine games and David Desharnais has four goals and four assists in nine games.

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