DETROIT – The Red Wings will be without Danny DeKeyser for at least this weekend after the young defenseman suffered an undisclosed upper-body injury late in Wednesday’s 2-1 shootout loss to Toronto.
With the news, the Red Wings decided to recall rookie defenseman Xavier Ouellet from AHL Grand Rapids and placed forward Justin Abdelkader (shoulder) on injured reserve, retroactive to Nov. 30 when he suffered the injury against Vancouver.
“That's obviously a tough break for us,” said Gustav Nyquist, of the injury to DeKeyser. “He's been real good for us. I love the way he plays. He can really skate, he's got real good speed and good heads-up play and knows when to make a play and when to play safe back there. I think for his age, he plays a real mature game and we'll miss him for sure.”
The 24-year-old DeKeyser has produced a goal and 11 points while playing in all 29 games this season for the Red Wings.
For Ouellet, who practiced in Grand Rapids on Thursday, this will be his second call up with the Red Wings. He played in five games with Detroit when Brendan Smith sat out with a hand infection. In those games, Ouellet collected his first career NHL goal with two points and a plus-3 rating.
“He's been great every time he's come up,” Nyquist said. “He's shown that he can play here for sure. I think (Brian Lashoff) as well, whenever he gets a chance to get in, he's rock solid. He's big on our PK and blocked shots and is a real solid D-man. Any of those guys that can come in, they're gonna be right there and help right away.”
Abdelkader practiced with the team again on Thursday, shedding the gray no-contact jersey and getting in some work with the penalty kill units.
“Abby I think is pretty close (to returning),” coach Mike Babcock said. “I think more likely next week.”
The Red Wings certainly miss Abdelkader’s net-front presence and his hard work at digging out pucks along the board for his linemates. He has 15 points in 24 games
As far as injuries go, the Red Wings have done some clean living this season as Abdelakder is only the seventh player to go on IR. Smith (hand), Pavel Datsyuk (shoulder), Jimmy Howard (groin), Johan Franzen (groin), Stephen Weiss (groin) and Jonas Gustavsson (shoulder) also spent time on IR.
The health of the Wings’ roster has been a major reason for the team’s tremendous early-season success. With 40 points, the Red Wings have a one-point lead over Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Wings host the Florida Panthers Friday night at Joe Louis Arena.
“I said the other day, you look at the standings, and all you need is to lose your D for like 10 games or something like that and things change overnight,” Babcock said. “That’s why when you talk about our team there’s … what I like is you still earn confidence. The worst is getting hurt right off the get go and then you don’t get confident at all and you never know if you’re any good. At least we know we’re a pretty good team and so now we’re going to get bumps and bruises and ideally we have enough depth to overcome it. We’re going to find out in a hurry.”
SHOOTOUT WOES: The Red Wings continue to struggle when the game hasn’t been decided in 65 minutes. On Thursday, they lost in a shootout for the fourth time this season. Their lone SO win came at New Jersey on Nov. 28.
Detroit’s not alone though. The Wings are among 14 teams to score three or fewer shootout goals. Datsyuk scored his first shootout goal of the season on Thursday, beating Toronto goalie James Reimer. Nyquist has the Wings’ other two SO goals this season.
“With the skill we have in the locker room I would say we can be one of the best teams in the shootout but it’s opposite,” said Tomas Tatar, who is a team-low 0-for-3 this season. “I don’t know. Maybe we don’t feel comfortable. … We just have to be better, everybody. Like I said, with that skill on the paper I think we can beat any team in the shootout but we don’t get two points. We just have to stay focused, try different things and don’t think about it much. Just use your mind and stay loose.”
From a coach’s perspective, Babcock believes the Wings’ shootout futility is all mental.
“I think it’s totally mental, like 100 percent,” he said. “We’re just going to continue to work on it like we always do and try to be solution-based and come up with different ways of solving the problem and eventually we’ll solve the problem. But we’re not going to let it get in the way of how we feel about our team or the direction that we’re going, because in the end they still don’t have the shootout in the playoffs.”