The Detroit Red Wings head into a Saturday night matchup with the Edmonton Oilers riding a two-game winning streak. That’s great news for a team that was mired in a four-game slump before embarking on their current road trip to Western Canada. A strong defensive performance helped the Red Wings earn a 2-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday, and an out-of-the-ordinary four-goal night helped them squeak past the Calgary Flames on Friday. One player who has stood out during that stretch and continues to impress is rookie defenseman Danny DeKeyser, who has assists in three consecutive games.
DeKeyser now has four points on the season, but what he is doing for the team goes far beyond anything that shows up on the stat sheet. With Jonathan Ericsson sideline by injury, he has stepped up to play alongside Niklas Kronwall on the top defense pairing and he continues to excel there. DeKeyser played a season-high 26 minutes against the Canucks, and nearly three minutes of that was spent on the penalty kill. His season average now hovers around the 23-minute mark, a reflection of how much faith head coach Mike Babcock has in him. Perhaps the most impressive fact is that DeKeyser has only played 25 games for Detroit between last season and the current one, yet continues to show a maturity far beyond that. He’s also been able to stay healthy for all 14 games this season, and in this group of oft-injured blueliners that could keep him on the top pairing for quite some time.
Only Kronwall has more points among the team’s defensemen this season, and if DeKeyser continues to see time on the power play that could level out soon. With DeKeyser breaking out and Brendan Smith and Kyle Quincey shaking off rough starts, Detroit’s defense is continuing to look better and better.