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Notes: Larkin deems he's ready to go; Athanasiou is still touch and go

DeKeyser feels vindicated and ready to lead

by Dana Wakiji and Arthur J. Regner @Dwakiji and @ArthurJRegner / DetroitRedWings.com

DETROIT -- That sound you heard Thursday morning was a huge sigh of relief from Red Wings fans.

Top-line center Dylan Larkin was on the ice at the BELFOR Training Center for practice, skating with linemates Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi while wearing an orange non-contact jersey.

Tweet from @Dwakiji: #RedWings Larkin skating in non-contact orange jersey. Athanasiou not skating. pic.twitter.com/3wvCfVWHgu

Larkin had left Tuesday's practice early after a collision along the boards. The team had a day off Wednesday.

"Nothing serious happened," Larkin said after practice. "It was something towards the end of practice where I was in a collision, had to come off and have tests. They were all negative, which was good. I feel great today. I think the orange jersey is just a precautionary thing. I felt great. I think tomorrow I don't know what color jersey I'll be wearing but I'll be in the game for sure Saturday.

"I feel great. There's nothing to hold me back."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: 🗣���: Hirose, Bowey, Cholowski & Larkin. pic.twitter.com/JqtLdNZhs5

Coach Jeff Blashill spoke with Larkin on Wednesday and was pleased to see him skating.

"I saw Dylan yesterday down here and he felt like he was going to be ready to go today for practice," Blashill said. "Certainly that followed through with today. We had him in a non-contact jersey to be precautious and not have him take any extra hits that he didn't necessarily need. But obviously he was able to get through that and it sounds like he told you guys he feels good so I anticipate him to play on Saturday."

Larkin's teammates know how important he is to the team.

"A little scary to see him get off the ice at the end of practice but he looked great again today," Luke Glendening said. "So it's great to have him back."

The news is a little more uncertain for Andreas Athanasiou, who has not been able to practice.

"I'll know more tomorrow," Blashill said. "We're hoping he practices tomorrow. If he practices tomorrow, then it puts him in position to play on Saturday. If he didn't practice tomorrow, it'd be super hard to play on Saturday so I'm hoping he practices tomorrow and he'll probably be a game-time decision."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: 🎥: Blashill gives an update on Larkin & Athanasiou following today's practice. pic.twitter.com/q9pm1lyJE2

Athanasiou played in one preseason game, scoring on a breakaway, but has not been able to practice much since.

"It's pain management a little bit," Blashill said. "He went into the boards in the preseason game and it's just kind of bothered him ever since so hopefully he gets to where he feels good and it doesn't nag him anymore."

DEKEYSER READY TO EXPAND HIS ROLE: Over the last two seasons, Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser has had something to prove.

After he signed a six-year, $30 million contract on July 26, 2016, the Detroit native became the object of ire of many Wings fans.

Much of their angst came after DeKeyser posted his worst career numbers during the 2016-17 campaign, the first year of his lucrative deal.

In 82 games, DeKeyser had 12 points (4-8-12) and was minus-22, the only time he has been a minus player in his career.

DeKeyser admits it was a disappointing season, but since that time, he has put together two solid seasons despite battling some injuries along the way.

In 117 total games played over the last two years, he has 32 points (11-21-32), is plus-4 and last season, led the Red Wings in ice time, clocking in at 21:58 per game.

During the preseason, Blashill told reporters he felt DeKeyser was on many nights the Wings' best defenseman last season.

A quiet man who doesn't toot his own horn, DeKeyser was asked if his last two seasons have given him a sense of redemption.

"A little bit, yeah," he said. "Because anytime you don't play as well as you'd like to and you have people harping on you all the time, you get kind of (ticked) off, you want to stop hearing it from people, you just want to go out there and play.

"That was kind of the case three years ago when I had a down season, I didn't have the kind of season I would have liked to. I kind of got sick about it and I just wanted to go out and change it. I guess you could say it's been good to get a bit of redemption, but I just want to keep it going and I think quietly, I've had a pretty good career here and I just want to keep it going."

Entering his eighth season with the Red Wings, DeKeyser is ready to be more of a leader, but don't expect him to be waving pom-poms.

"I've always tried to be a leader out there and leading isn't always being the loudest guy in the room either. We've had guys here before us like Z (Henrik Zetterberg) and Pav (Pavel Datsyuk) they were pretty quiet guys, they led by example," DeKeyser said. "They just go out there and they play hard and when you're on the bench, you watch them play and how hard they play gets you going, so there's times when you've got to be vocal and there's times when you just go out and play and show the other guys what to do."

It appears DeKeyser and Filip Hronek will be Detroit's top defensive pair.

DeKeyser is more of a talker on the ice when he's playing with a younger player like Hronek as opposed to another veteran blueliner.

"(With) young guys and they're still trying to find their way, me and Fil (Hronek) are partners, we're talking all the time out there, trying to get that chemistry," Dekeyser said. "I'm letting him know stuff, little things here and there that we can do better, that we can improve on and the same thing from him. I try and be open and make sure guys are comfortable to talk to me. I don't want to be just one-sided either."

If the Red Wings hope to be part of the playoff mix, DeKeyser feels the Wings must be ready from the get-go.

"In the room here, we just want to have a good start to the year," he said. "We know last year's start wasn't good enough and it's hard when you get behind the eight-ball like that, so I don't know, what did it take us eight games to get our first win last year?

"We can't let that happen again. We just want to start early out of the gate and keep going from there. Confidence is a funny thing when guys start playing and you're winning, guys are playing well you get things rolling, anything can happen."

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