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Notes: Abdelkader given green light to play with a shield

DeKeyser has full practice with team, hopes to play by weekend

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT - All in all, it was a positive outcome for Justin Abdelkader and the Red Wings.

Abdelkader fought Flames forward Troy Brouwer last Thursday in Calgary, even finishing the game despite suffering a fractured cheekbone.

"I didn't know I had a fracture," Abdelkader said. "I knew it was sore. We did X-rays in Calgary and obviously the machine isn't like doing a full CAT scan so it didn't detect it there. I went and finished, which obviously lucky that nothing happened because once you have a fracture, if you get hit again, it can cause some damage."

Abdelkader saw a specialist Monday morning and was able to practice with the team wearing a shield.

"I can play as long as I keep it protected," Abdelkader said. "So that's why I've been playing around with either those chin bars that guys wear when they break jaws, most likely go with something like that but we'll see, we'll play around with it the next couple of days."

The last time Abdelkader wore something like it was in college where players are required to wear the full cage as protection.

"Sight lines, looking down, just having something there rather than not having anything," Abdelkader said of the hardest adjustment. "It'll take a little bit to get used to but obviously hopefully it won't take too long."

The fracture is non-displaced so it can heal on its own in the usual six to eight-week timeframe for broken bones.

Abdelkader said he doesn't feel any pain unless he touches his cheek in that area.

"The first couple nights it was a little sore sleeping on that side for sure," he said. "The swelling's gone down quite a bit, it's not painful when I'm just sitting here like this, not doing anything. If I start pushing on it, touching it, then it gets pretty sore around that area. It's something different, another injury to add to the list, I guess. At least it's not going to keep me out, that's the positive."

Wings coach Jeff Blashill is happy that Abdelkader won't miss more than the one game this past Saturday.

"He's a commodity on this hockey team because of the size and skill package that he brings," Blashill said. "I think when he's playing his best, he's a commodity in the NHL, because of the size/skill package. Certainly he's a big factor for us."

Abdelkader skated in practice on a line with Tomas Tatar and Dylan Larkin.

DEKEYSER PRACTICES: Danny DeKeyser returned to a full practice with his teammates at the BELFOR Training Center Monday.

DeKeyser, who suffered a hairline fracture blocking a shot in Dallas on Oct. 10, had to stay off the ice for a while after practicing in an attempt to return.

"It's been almost five weeks on Tuesday, so it's been awhile," DeKeyser said. "I tried getting on it the week after it happened and it just wasn't feeling right, so I had to stay off the ice a few weeks and just kind of try it out as we go on."

DeKeyser traveled with the team to western Canada and skated on his own once in Edmonton, but mostly did off-ice training.

"I haven't talked to Piet (athletic trainer Piet Van Zant) since he got off the ice but it looks like he's moving in the right direction," Blashill said. "Hopefully, if he walks off the ice and felt good, then that's a real positive. I would think he's going to be back sooner than later then. But we needed what for him was a decent skate today. And then tomorrow will be a decent skate for him, and if he can get through those two, then it looks like he'll be getting closer to being ready to go."

DeKeyser said Wednesday at home against Calgary would be a little too soon for his return.

"I would like to shoot for next weekend. We play Friday and Sunday," DeKeyser said. "I don't know, somewhere in there if it feels good as the week goes on here. I haven't done any battling or nothing like that, though."

DeKeyser said there are a few things he needs to make sure he can do before he plays in a game.

"It's more like trying to move your feet quick, like your first three strides to get going," DeKeyser said. "I can skate laps all day but it's just the explosiveness part of the game, and also the battle stuff in the corners."

Blashill said although DeKeyser has missed a lot of time, he does have one advantage.

"The good thing for him, like AA (Andreas Athanasiou), he skates well," Blashill said. "When you skate well it's easier to jump back in. Certainly timing's different. And just all that kind of stuff. Hopefully we can get him back in here sooner than later."

HELM, DALEY DO NOT PRACTICE: Darren Helm and Trevor Daley did not practice with the team Monday for maintenance reasons.

Blashill expects both to be ready to play Wednesday.

ATHANASIOU PLAYS A LOT: With Abdelkader out last Saturday, Blashill went with 11 forwards and seven defensemen.

"There's plenty of plusses and minuses to 11 and seven and 12 and six," Blashill said. "The D never really like 11 and seven. Sometimes the forwards tend to like it. Some teams tend to do it lots. I've done it before in the past. I just think getting Abby back in, it has a little bit to do with the makeup of your team. I really like the fact we were able to get Witter (Luke Witkowski) in on D without having just six D and I thought he did a real good job. Certainly having Abby back gives you another guy who's hard at the net, which we need to be."

Athanasiou shifted between lines, playing both center and wing. He ended up with a career-high 20:32 of ice time.

"I think he played 20 the other night," Blashill said. "Eleven and seven allowed some of that. I'd like to keep all our guys closer to between 16-18, 19 and not get up in that 20 range but sometimes that's the way the game goes."

Athanasiou was just happy to be in the mix, no matter what his role was.

"It's been OK, I've been playing wing and center, so I got no problem with it," Athanasiou said. "Wherever it is, as long as I'm getting out there and trying to help the team, that's the main goal."

Athanasiou said his conditioning feels good after eight games, just as he expected.

"I think it's just getting into that game pace and you can kind of see I'm getting a little more comfortable with every game," Athanasiou said. "I think there's still room that's going to develop over some more repetition, some more games and practices, so I definitely good. I don't feel bad out there. I only see myself moving forward."

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