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Notes: Wings welcome rested, high-powered Avalanche

DeKeyser set to play in 400th career NHL game

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

DETROIT -- It's no secret that the Red Wings, having played last night in Boston, are at a disadvantage tonight when they host the Colorado Avalanche.

The Avalanche are led by the line of Nathan MacKinnon (18-23-41), Mikko Rantanen (11-32-43) and Gabriel Landeskog (15-13-28).

The three have combined for 112 points, which is the most points of any three teammates through 26 games since Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza had a collective 125 points in 26 games for the Ottawa Senators in 2005-06.

The Avalanche have won five straight on the road and are 9-4-2 overall in away games.

Their 20 points away from home are the most in the league.

Their 60 goals scored on the road are also the most in the league.

"I just think they're a good team," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "Their top line's got 112 points. That'll lead to a lot of success on the road and at home. They've got an elite, elite line and that allows the rest of the group, good players, to play within certain roles and they do a good job of it. They/ve done a good job with their back end, they've gotten good goaltending so they're a good team. They play extremely fast, they've got some guys that can really, really skate so we're going to have to be on top of our game."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Blashill ahead of #COLvsDET:

The Wings played a tough, physical game in Boston Saturday night, earning a 4-2 victory, while the Avalanche played two days ago at home against the St. Louis Blues, a 3-2 overtime loss.

"We're going to have to trust everybody against them," Blashill said. "We're in a different situation than if we hadn't just played last night in a back-to-back and got home late. They were here, we weren't. So we're going to have to use more people against them maybe because otherwise the minutes will just get too high and too hard on guys that played a lot of minutes last night.

"I think between (Dylan)Larkin's line, Glenny's (Luke Glendening's) line, (Frans) Nielsen's line, they're all going to have to play against them. I've used some combination of Larkin's line and Glenny's line against other teams' best, for the most part it's given me good flexibility so that our bench doesn't totally get ran by the other teams' bench. I've liked that a lot. Tonight it'll probably have to go all three. At the end of the game last night, we were getting a little bit tired, I thought, and I had Nielsen's line out there against (Brad) Marchand's line when we scored the game-winner. So Nielsen's done that lots in his career so we'll use all of them."

Then there's the Colorado power play, ranked first in the NHL at 31.4 percent.

"Actually both units are great," Blashill said. "They've got the one line, when that unit goes out there, they can be really good. They're dangerous, they've got great chemistry as a line, their power play unit feeds together. The second unit has a former No. 1 overall in Erik Johnson on it, Tyson Jost is in the slot and he does a real good job shooting pucks in that area. So I think in order to have a No. 1 power play in the league, the other unit has to be able to go out there and still score in limited time and they've done that. We're going to have to stay disciplined tonight."

The Avalanche also have a good penalty kill, ranked 11th at 80.4 percent.

The Wings are 15th on the power play at 20.3 percent and 16th on the penalty kill at 79.2 percent.

Blashill did not indicate if goaltender Jonathan Bernier would get the start against his former team, but it would make sense considering Jimmy Howard played in Boston.

In four career games against Colorado, Bernier is 1-1- with a 2.68 goals-against average and .910 save percentage.

DEKEYSER HITS 400 NHL CAREER GAMES: When the Red Wings signed defenseman Danny DeKeyser on March 29, 2013, as a free agent out of Western Michigan, he quickly became a favorite of then-Detroit coach Mike Babcock.

Babcock praised DeKeyser's play and said if the Red Wings didn't land the highly sought after free agent, Detroit would not have made the playoffs during the 2012-13 season.

On Sunday, the Detroit native will play his 400th career game in the NHL against the Colorado Avalanche.

Unlike Babcock, Blashill was not a DeKeyser fan when he first coached him as a player.

"I had him on the ice as a junior hockey player and didn't draft him in the next draft; that's the reality in the USHL, he went to Sioux City and then I got him at Western (Michigan)," Blashill said when asked to reflect on DeKeyser's milestone.

"I didn't think (he) was going to be this great freshman until I saw him on the ice for the very first time and I said, 'Holy smokes, he's got some special attributes,' and he's just kind of carried that forward.

"When he came to the NHL, I thought he'd be a good player, he's better than I thought, and he's continued to do that, so, this year Danny's played really, really, good. He's been one of the guys I think has really brought his game up to another level, his physicality has been real good, his consistency has been good.

"So the fact that he's got himself to 400 is impressive and he's got lots of hockey in front of him. I think it's awesome. It just speaks to the different paths different players take. My kids are all playing youth hockey, and everybody wants to make judgments on kids when they're real young. Boy, there's a lot of different paths to get to where we're standing here today."

This season in 18 games, DeKeyser has one goal among his eight points and is plus-2 with an ice time average of 21:36 per game.

In 399 games with the Wings, Dekeyser has 25 goals, 82 assists, is plus-9, has been assessed 200 penalty minutes with a career ice time average of 21:17.    

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