ROMULUS, Mich. — One rookie goes down and another one comes in.
When the Red Wings arrived back in Michigan Friday afternoon, coach Mike Babcock announced who would take Danny DeKeyser’s place in the lineup.
“Lash will go in,” Babcock said, referring to Brian Lashoff. “Obviously, it was a big loss and it’s hard to believe a kid out of college would be a big loss, but he is. He’s played real well for us, but we just have to keep going because that’s the playoffs.”
DeKeyser suffered a broken right thumb after a collision with Anaheim’s Kyle Palmieri in the third period of Game 2. DeKeyser was wearing a cast on his right hand when he got off the team plane.
“Kind of came in to hit me and my hand went into him as he hit me, just kind of bent it back and I guess it snapped,” DeKeyser said. “It didn’t feel right at all. I was moving it, I was a little nervous to actually take my glove off and look at it. I knew right away it wasn’t good.”
DeKeyser said he will likely need surgery on his thumb but wasn’t sure when that would happen.
“Just the thought of not being able to play the rest of the playoffs is a bummer, for sure,” DeKeyser said. “It’s something I definitely wanted to continue to do here. Just gonna have to get over it and move on.”
Babcock was asked why he chose Lashoff instead of a veteran like Ian White or Carlo Colaiacovo.
“He’s smart, knows how to play and competes hard,” Babcock said. “He makes a good first pass and he’s a good penalty-killer.”
Because of the early injuries, Lashoff played in 31 regular-season games, recording a goal and four assists. His last game was April 4 at Phoenix.
Defenseman Niklas Kronwall said the team has confidence in Lashoff, just as they had in DeKeyser.
“Obviously losing DK is going to be a tough challenge,” Kronwall said. “Ever since he came in, he’s been playing great for us, playing more and more minutes, playing in all kinds of situations. He’s been huge for us. In saying that, I think Lash is going to do great. He was playing really well this year and he’s ready for this.”
DeKeyser impressed in short time
No one could have possibly predicted how ready DeKeyser was for the NHL when he signed as a free agent out of Western Michigan on March 30.
But after the Wings beat the Dallas Stars to clinch a playoff berth on the final day of the regular season, Babcock said something rather incredible.
“I’m a big believer if we don’t get DeKeyser, we don’t make the playoffs,” Babcock told FOX Sports Detroit’s John Keating.
The 23-year-old played in 11 games, collecting one assist and finishing plus-4.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been as impressed by a young player as I have with Danny,” Daniel Cleary said.
Kronwall echoed those words Friday after the Wings arrived.
“What he’s been able to do, I don’t know if people really realize how good he’s been for us,” Kronwall said. “Coming from college, you don’t really expect somebody to come in and play that well for us. He’s gonna be here for years and years to come. We’re really happy he chose to come here.”
Defensively, DeKeyser seemed almost Nick Lidstrom-esque the way he made the first pass out of the zone and played positionally without getting flustered.
“I knew coming in that it’s a higher level, obviously, so I was going to have to step up my game and play solid positioning out there and just try to use my feet to skate out of trouble and keep guys to the outside,” DeKeyser said. “So nothing really surprised me too much. I knew the skill level and everything was going to be that much more.”
DeKeyser credits his veteran teammates for making his transition to the NHL a smooth one.
“Even coming down the stretch here in the last two weeks or so when we were fighting for a playoff spot, if you walked in the locker room, I don’t think you would notice that we were in the ninth spot or the eighth spot, just getting in because the veterans in the room just kept everybody so calm,” DeKeyser said. “It was just like we were going out and playing another game and it helped me to be not as nervous. I think it helped the whole team as well.”
DeKeyser said his brief time with the Wings will help him be even better next season.
“It’s been a great experience for me,” DeKeyser said. “I’m just going to take the last 12 or 13 games, whatever I played here, and just use that as experience for coming into next year. I know exactly what to expect and got to know the guys a little bit here, so I think that’ll definitely benefit me for next season.”