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Notes: Wings will ease DeKeyser back into lineup

Kronwall moves into top 10 in all-time games played by Swedish defenseman

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT -- Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser has missed a lot of time so he won't be asked to jump right in and play 23 minutes a game.

DeKeyser returns to the lineup tonight against the Colorado Avalanche after missing 17 games with a foot injury.

"I think we're going to watch and see how he looks, one," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "I don't think there's any limits from a physical standpoint because I think we waited a good amount of time, had the full time to practice with him. But we'll have seven dressed, we'll have guys that have filled a lot of those roles so he doesn't need to come in and jump into tons of minutes. It'd be nice if we could get him into that, I don't know, 18-minute range. But we'll see."

The Wings have been going with a lineup of 11 forwards and seven defensemen of late, something Blashill said he has used before, even dating back to his days with the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins.

"I think right now the way our team is set up, it allows me to as I said, up front have a match line and then also play some other skill lines together and play guys with multiple people instead of just being stuck playing with one person," Blashill said. "So I think that's helped us."

The Wings originally signed DeKeyser as an undrafted free agent in March of 2013 out of Western Michigan.

In 319 career games, DeKeyser has 18 goals, 69 assists and is plus-4.

Blashill said the way things stand now, college free agents often get more hype than perhaps they deserve.

"Danny was one of, in the last 10 years, one of the best college free agents that's come along, bar none," Blashill said. "He's been a top-four, top-two defenseman basically the whole time he's been here. I remember having conversations with Mike Babcock about whether or not he should put him in. And when he finally put him in, he helped them big-time and I think he has the whole time. He's played against other teams' best players the whole time he's been here.

"I think a top three, let's call him top-four, top-two defenseman. He's been on the top pair almost the whole time he's been here. That's a big-time commodity in this league, big-time commodity. So I think he's a great defender. If he plays against the other teams' best and you win enough games and you're a playoff team, boy, he's a huge, huge commodity in the league."

DeKeyser was paired with both Trevor Daley and Jonathan Ericsson in practice Saturday.

KRONWALL HITS SWEDISH MILESTONE: When defenseman Niklas Kronwall skates against Colorado, he will move into the top 10 all-time in games played by a Swedish defenseman.

Kronwall will tie Johnny Oduya and Kjell Samuelsson with 813 NHL games.

Although Kronwall has a chronic knee condition and battled other ailments in training camp and preseason, he has not missed a game since returning to the lineup for the team's fourth game of the season.

"I think Kronner's done a good job," Blashill said. "I think early, he missed most of training camp and most of the beginning part of the year, I think it took him a while, not took him a while, took him the normal amount to get up to speed but he looks like he's up to speed to me, he's real smart and moves the puck real well, talks and makes other people better."

In 812 games, Kronwall has 76 goals, 305 assists and is plus-15.

This season, Kronwall has three assists and is plus-1 in 17 games.

First on the list of all-time games played by a Swedish defenseman is Nick Lidstrom with 1,564.

OTHER MILESTONES: Ericsson will play in his 550th career game tonight.

Frans Nielsen will skate in his 100th game as a Wing, 706th total.

AVALANCHE IN TOWN: The Colorado Avalanche being in town does not carry the same hype that it did 15-20 years ago.

But they have gotten off to a decent start at 9-8-1, 3-7-0 on the road, and have a high-powered line in Gabriel Landeskog-Nathan MacKinnon-Mikko Rantanen.

MacKinnon leads the Avalanche with 20 points, Rantanen has 17 and Landeskog has 14.

No doubt they'll see a lot of Nielsen with Darren Helm and Luke Glendening.

The Avalanche played Saturday night, a 5-2 loss at Nashville.

"The key is to jump on them quickly, to stay on them for 60 minutes, not give them anything easy and make sure we're playing great hockey," Blashill said. "They're not going to use it as an excuse, we never do, but we got to make sure we got the pedal down from the drop of the puck all the way through."

Blashill said Jimmy Howard would start.

Howard is 8-3-2 with a 2.47 goals-against average and .910 save percentage in 14 career games against Colorado.

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