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Notes: Hirose and his family ready for NHL debut at MSG

DeKeyser playing a lot, looking for overall consistency; Howard and Lundqvist playing means close games

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

NEW YORK -- Taro Hirose's moment is almost here.

The Detroit Red Wings arrived in New York late Monday afternoon and Hirose's family -- mom Susan, dad Chris and younger brother Akito -- also got to town in time to see Hirose the night before his NHL debut.

"They got in last night so I saw them a little before I went to bed," Hirose said after the team's optional morning skate at Madison Square Garden. "Hadn't seen them in a while, so it was nice to catch up, see where they're at."

Although Hirose has played at the historic venue before as a member of the Michigan State Spartans, he realizes tonight will be a bit different.

"Obviously, being in New York and stepping on the ice for one of the first times there, you can just feel it when you step on the ice," Hirose said. "It'll be a pretty special moment.

"There's going to be less time and space out there to make decisions. It's sort of hard to say what it's going to be like until you're out there making plays. Just trying to enjoy it and see what it's like."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: "It will be a pretty special moment.".@Tarzy17 speaks ahead of tonight's game against the Rangers. #DETvsNYR #LGRW

Wings coach Jeff Blashill has Hirose on a line with veterans Frans Nielsen and Thomas Vanek, who have 1,857 NHL games between them.

"I think Vanek's a good goal scorer, too and Hirose's a good passer," Blashill said. "Hopefully, they can complement each other, how the lines fit and work. The other line has been pretty good and we're trying to continue to build chemistry. Larks (Dylan Larkin) and (Anthony) Mantha have been together lots and Bert (Tyler Bertuzzi), Double-A (Andreas Athanasiou) and Glenny (Luke Glendening), I think is a good line. So then it kind of puts him in that spot.

"I want to give him an opportunity to play with some skilled players. That's what he is ultimately. If he ends up being a real good NHLer, it's gonna be as more of a skilled player than as a grinder. So we'll see. It doesn't mean that he'll be out there exclusively with those guys but we think it gives him a good chance to be successful."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Coach Blashill on Taro Hirose and #DETvsNYR. #LGRW

Of course being successful means getting a few pucks past New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, which is not an easy task.

"My brother mentioned it to me last night," Hirose said. "Other than that, I hadn't really thought too much into it. I'm trying to put all of that into the back of my mind and just prepare like I normally do."

After seeing his family, Hirose said he was able to settle into his room to get some sleep.

"Not too bad. I sort of just tried to put some music on and fall asleep," Hirose said. "I think the nerves are starting to set in a little bit on the ice once I was out there and I'm sure come tonight, it will be a little bit more."

DEKEYSER GETS MORE TIME: Even before Mike Green's virus resurfaced, Jonathan Ericsson suffered a lower-body injury and Trevor Daley's back started acting up, defenseman Danny DeKeyser was getting a lot of ice time.

In Saturday's 2-1 victory over the New York Islanders, DeKeyser played a season-high 28:55.

"It is what it is," DeKeyser said. "We got guys hurt. I'm just trying to maybe step up a little bit more. If Blash is using me a bit more and I realize that. I try to do what I can to help the team, try to help us win games."

DeKeyser did just that, assisting on both of Athanasiou's goals against the Islanders.

"I'm just trying to keep it simple," DeKeyser said. "When we get in the offensive zone, I'm trying to just get pucks on the net when I can. It's been kind of a focus the last couple years here, trying to get our D more involved, get more pucks to the net. I try to jump up in the play when I can, try to be that second layer coming in if the forwards below hit me, I try to be there if I can and then just get the puck on the net."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: "It's usually like a 2-1, 3-2 game and the goalies always play unreal."@DeKeyser5 looks at tonight's matchup with the NY Rangers. #DETvsNYR

DeKeyser now has four goals and 13 assists in 45 games this season, which is five more points than he had in each of the previous two seasons, in 65 and 82 games, respectively.

DeKeyser's career high in points is 29, set in 80 games during the 2014-15 season.

"I think Danny's got offense to him," Blashill said. "I think he's always has had some offense to him. I think some of it is the job he's been given. He's given a job of defending against the other team's best. He's not on the power play. It's hard to have lots of offense if you're not on the power play in the National Hockey League and you start most of your shifts from the D-zone.

"I think his No. 1 thing is to play against the other teams' best. Part of the way Danny helps our offense lots of times is getting the puck out of our zone. There's not a stat necessarily for that. I know there is, but it doesn't equate to points all the time. It doesn't always equate even to the scoring chances, but the guys that get you out of your end allow you to play way more offensively as a hockey team."

DeKeyser has also tied Larkin for the team lead in average ice time at 21:51 while generally playing against the other teams' top lines.

"I love playing against the other team's best players," DeKeyser said. "It's always a challenge and I think it makes you better as a player, too. Every night if you go out there and are playing against top lines, you got to be ready and you got to be willing to do the thing it takes to win games. Sometimes some of that is taking some of your offense, scaling that back a bit and focusing more on the D-zone, so I try to do that when necessary. But if there's chances to add offense, I try to do that, too."

DeKeyser, who turned 29 on March 7, said the main area he is working on improving is his overall consistency.

"I feel like sometimes there's games where I'm really good and I try to keep that level as high as it can be throughout the year," DeKeyser said. "It's hard to do for 80 games or whatever but if you have your A or A-minus game most of the time, or even a B-plus game, throughout the season, it's going to make you a better player and you're going to have more success."

CLOSE ONES WITH RANGERS: The Red Wings and Rangers might be out of the playoff race at 15th and 13th in the Eastern Conference, respectively, but that doesn't mean they don't play exciting games against each other.

The last five games and 13 of the last 14 between the two teams have been decided by one goal.

In addition, six of the last seven contests have gone to overtime or a shootout.

"I don't know. I can't put my finger on it," DeKeyser said about the tight matchups against the Rangers. "It's usually like a 2-1 or 3-2 game. The goalies always play unreal. I would suspect it's probably going to be the same way tonight. I don't really know why that is."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Morning work getting started at MSG. #DETvsNYR #LGRW

Certainly Lundqvist and Jimmy Howard are a big factor.

The two All-Star goaltenders have both started in the same game 10 times with at least one of them getting chosen as one of the game's three stars in nine of the 10. Both goalies have been named as two of the three stars in six of those 10 games.

In 15 career games against the Rangers, Howard is 9-3-3 with a 1.75 goals-against average and .948 save percentage.

In 17 career games against the Wings, Lundqvist is 7-4-6 with a 2.00 goals-against average and .936 save percentage. He also has four shutouts against Detroit.

The .948 save percentage for Howard and the .936 save percentage for Lundqvist are the best for each goalie versus one team.

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