The wait to see rookie defenseman Danny DeKeyser in a game with the Detroit Red Wings continues.
Wings coach Mike Babcock decided his only lineup change along the blue line for Thursday night’s game against the Phoenix Coyotes was inserting Brian Lashoff for Ian White.
“It’s interesting with Danny here, we have so few practices to get him up to speed to where we want,” Babcock said. “We sure like what we see. We’ve just got to have enough courage to fire him in and get on with it. Originally it was going to be (Thursday), it’s not.”
DeKeyser completely understands Babcock’s decision.
“I’ve been off for two weeks or so without a game, so (they’re) just trying to make sure that I’m conditioned enough and not going to get tired and stuff like that. So, I just want to be ready.
“I never know until the day of (if I’m playing),” DeKeyser added. “So I’m just preparing myself to be ready to go whenever it is. It’s a little tough (waiting), I’m anxious to go, but whenever it comes I’ll be ready.”
DeKeyser agreed that getting up to “NHL speed” is kind of like cramming for an exam.
“A little bit,” DeKeyser said. “A lot of the system stuff here is kind of similar to what I had at Western (Michigan). It’s not much different.”
DeKeyser, a De La Salle graduate, agreed on Friday to a two-year, entry-level deal to join the Wings.
“All the guys here have been really good,” DeKeyser said. “I was a little nervous the first day when I stepped into the locker room. But everyone has made me feel really comfortable so it’s a good thing.”
He said it took a few practices before his nerves were finally gone.
“Once you get out there, skate around with a few practices, guys joke around with you a little bit,” DeKeyser said. “That makes you feel a little more comfortable, kind of gets the nerves out.”
DeKeyser, 23, was one of the NHL’s most sought-after free agents last year before deciding to stay at WMU.
That again was the case this year where DeKeyser’s representatives met with a number of teams over last week, including Toronto, Anaheim, St. Louis, Edmonton, Philadelphia, Ottawa and Nashville.
The Wings said all along the only way DeKeyser will get in the lineup is if he’s ready.
“Certainly Danny understands we’re fighting for a playoff spot and we’re not holding tryouts,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said on Friday. “It’s a competition. We need wins. We’re not putting people out there in position where they’re quite not prepared for the opportunity.”
But that hasn’t stopped his family with bombarding him with questions as to when he’ll get in the lineup.
“My family asks me every day, so it’s the same thing I tell you guys, whenever my name’s up there is when I’ll be in,” DeKeyser said. “I definitely understand it’s tough (call). Just a few points separate everybody. The standings change every night. It’s a heated race in both conferences, so it’s a tough situation and I understand that.”
In three seasons at WMU, DeKeyser, who was undrafted, appeared in 118 games and had 12 goals, 37 assists and 107 penalty minutes.
“I’ve been feeling good the last few days and I’m ready to go,” DeKeyser said.
DeKeyser might night play Friday in Colorado either, unless Babcock decides to make two changes along the blue line since he’s already said Kyle Quincey will play against the Avalanche.
“I had this theory all mapped out, it’s not the same,” Babcock said when asked how he was going to handle the ice time for the overabundance of healthy defensemen now. “It’s day-to-day. I’m just going to play who I think is going to help us play that night.”