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Oct. 14: Week Ahead in Hockeytown

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Danny DeKeyser is looking forward to returning to Denver where he made his NHL debut late last season against the Colorado Avalanche. (Photo by Getty Images)
DETROIT – Barely six months since turning pro, Danny DeKeyser returns to the place it all began for him when the Colorado Avalanche host the Red Wings at the Pepsi Center on Thursday.

Last April, a week after signing with the hometown Red Wings, DeKeyser – last spring’s most-coveted undrafted rookie free agent – made his NHL debut with his parents in the crowd.

Besides the final score, there’s nothing specific that DeKeyser remembers about his first pro game.

“It’s obviously a place that I’ll always remember,” DeKeyser said. “Playing in my first game there, and what it felt like walking into the building, that’s something that I’ll definitely never forget and it was great game, a 3-2 overtime win.”

DeKeyser didn’t figure in the scoring, though he did have a game-high three takeaways while partnered with defenseman Kyle Quincey in 16:36 of ice-time.

“I just wanted to go out there and play decent,” DeKeyser said. “I thought I played pretty well for my first game and it’s something that I’m very proud of.”

Like most hockey players, DeKeyser developed game day routines as a teenager. But those were disheveled when nerves got the most of him prior to the April 5 game in Denver.

“I really couldn’t sleep that much for my nap that day,” he said. “Your first game, you never really know what to expect out there, so it was different, but it worked out pretty well.

“I was pretty nervous out there. The first five minutes or so I think everyone is just kind of nervous in their first NHL game. As long as you get those first couple of shifts under your belt, then you just go out there and have fun.”

DeKeyser played the final 11 games of the regular season, but had his playoff experience end early when a thumb fracture required surgery.

There are four games on the Red Wings’ schedule this week, including a rare weekday afternoon game in Boston, and a home game against former Central Division rival Columbus on Tuesday with a special 8 p.m. start time.

“The schedule is starting to pick up a little bit here, so you have to take care of yourself day after day and make sure that your body is rested up and you’re getting your fluids and nutrition on you,” DeKeyser said. “Make sure you’re getting good sleep at night because you have to be ready to go every day.”

With that, here’s a look ahead to this week in Hockeytown:

Milan Lucic

MONDAY – at BOSTON (3-1-0): Happy Christopher Columbus Day! This is the Wing’s last trip into Beantown in the regular season. It’s also the only weekday afternoon game on the NHL schedule this month. A special ceremonial puck drop will be held as the Bruins pay tribute to their 90 years of history this season. On Monday, the Bruins will recognize their teams from the 1940s with 95-year-old legend Milt Schmidt participating in a pre-game faceoff with captains Zdeno Chara and Henrik Zetterberg. … The Bruins had gone 71 straight games without being shutout, until last week when they lost 2-0 against Colorado. The Bruins were last shutout by an opponent on Feb. 28, 2012 when they were blanked, 1-0, by Ottawa. … Since the 2011-12 season, Boston is 44-21-3 when they have a fighting major. They are 2-1-0 this season with the Red Wings game on Oct. 5 the only game they didn’t have a fight. … There are three new forwards in the Bruins’ lineup this season – Jarome Iginla, Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith – and each of them collected one point in a 3-1 win at Columbus on Saturday.

PLAYER TO WATCH: If his fast start to the season is any indication, left winger Milan Lucic will enjoy playing with new linemate, future hall-of-famer Jarome Iginla, who replaces the departed Nathan Horton. … Lucic had two assists to lead the offense in a 4-1 win over Detroit on Oct. 5. He now has two goals and two assists in four games after potting an empty-net goal in Saturday’s win over the Blue Jackets. … One of the biggest, most intimidating players in the league, he compiled 12 penalty minutes, four punishing hits and one SOG in a shutout loss to the Avs last Thursday.

Marian Gaborik

TUESDAY – vs. COLUMBUS (2-2-0): The Blue Jackets missed the playoffs on the final game of the regular season last April, however, they pulled off a rare feat by posting a 4-0-1 record against the Red Wings. For the first time since joining the league in 2000, the Jackets are not in the same division as Detroit, though both remain conference foes as both teams moved to the East with the league’s realignment. … The Blue Jackets’ Jack Johnson is lucky to be in the lineup instead of a hospital bed following a cheap shot to the head by Buffalo Patrick Kaleta, who has an in-person meeting this week with the league’s department of player safety in New York City. … Fedor Tyutin's next goal will tie him with former Red Wing Vladimir Konstantinov for ninth place in NHL history among Russian-born defensemen (47). … The Blue Jackets are 28-0-0 when leading after two periods since Jan. 9, 2012. … Columbus has been assessed seven minor penalties, this fewest in the NHL this season. The Red Wings had seven minor penalties in their season-opening win over Buffalo.

PLAYER TO WATCH: A rejuvenated Marian Gaborik has produced six points in four games already for the Blue Jackets. A three-time 40-goal scorer, he seems primed to have a terrific season, but that’s only if the veteran forward stays healthy. In the final season of a five-year contract that has paid him $7.5 million per season, Gaborik has said he’s willing to negotiate with the Jackets during the season.

Semyon Varlamov

THURSDAY – at COLORADO (5-0-0): Who will lose first, the Denver Broncos or the Avalanche? Under first-year coach Patrick Roy, the Avs haven’t allowed more than one goal in any of their first five games, which according to the Elias Sports Bureau, is the only team in NHL history to start a season with five straight wins while surrendering no more than one goal in any of the games. … The Avs tied the 1994-95 Quebec Nordiques for the second-best start in franchise history. The record, which is 7-0, was established by the Nordiques in 1985-86. If the Avs beat the Dallas Stars on Tuesday, then the only thing standing between the Avs and a franchise-record tying seventh straight win is the Red Wings. … Colorado hasn’t given up a first-period goal through the first five games. … The Avs, who are 3-0-0 against the Eastern Conference so far this season, are 36-14-7 against the East since 2009-10. In that same time they are 6-5-1 vs. Detroit. … Rookie Nathan MacKinnon, who was a linemate with Red Wings prospect Martin Frk with the Halifax Mooseheads last season has picked up a goal and four assists in five games. MacKinnon was the first overall player taken in the 2013 NHL draft. … The Avs are the only team in the league not to allow a power-play goal this season, killing off all 12 short-handed situations.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Goalie Semyon Varlamov has surrendered just one goal in each of his three starts, stopping 128-of-132 shots (.970). The Russian is the first goalie in Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques history to hold opponents to a goal or less in in each of his first four starts of the season. Varlamov didn’t have much offensive support last year, as the Avs averaged 2.09 goals per game in games started by the former first-round draft pick of the Washington Capitals, which was the second-lowest offensive support in the league.

Shane Doan

SATURDAY – at PHOENIX (4-2-0): The Coyotes won 66 percent of their faceoffs in a 4-2 win over the Red Wings last Thursday. Center Antione Vermette won 63 percent (17-of-27) of his faceoffs against Detroit. He is ranked 13th in the league with a 59.6 faceoff percentage. … Derek Morris, Mikkel Boedker, Vermette and Michael Stone scored, while goalie Mike Smith made 28 stops for the Coyotes. … Stone’s goal was his first career game-winner. … In the last two seasons, the Coyotes are 14-2-1 when they have scored four or more goals. … Center Martin Hanzal (goal, 4 assists), right winger Radim Vrbata (3 goals, 2 assists) and Morris (2 goals, 3 assists) lead Phoenix with five points each. … Vermette (316) and Keith Yandle (308) own the Coyotes’ longest consecutive games played streaks. Yandle is second overall among NHL defensemen in consectuve games played. St. Louis Blues’ Jay Bouwmeester is the league’s frontrunner with 638 games.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Shane Doan is in this 18th season with the franchise and 10th as the Coyotes’ captain. He is now the longest tenured captain in the NHL. Doan leads all active players in games played for one franchise with 1,252 games. Doan and his linemates Mike Ribeiro and Boedker are scoreless through the first five games. It was the first time in Doan’s career that he has begun a season in a point drought that has lasted five games. He produced a power-play goal and an assist in the sixth game of the season, a 5-2 win at Carolina on Sunday. … In 64 career games against Detroit, Doan has registered 14 goals and 22 assists.

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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