Daily Archives: November 26, 2014

DeKeyser’s De La Salle Pilots set to face Abdelkader’s Muskegon Mona Sailors in D2 state championship game

DETROIT >> You rarely hear high school football talk banter around an NHL locker room this time of the year.

That hasn’t been the case this week inside the Wings’ dressing room.

Danny DeKeyser and Justin Abdelkader have been going back and forth all week as their schools prepare to meet in the Division 2 state championship game, Friday at Ford Field.

“I think this is pretty rare, rather unique,” said DeKeyser, who’s a graduate of De La Salle.

“The chances of this happening I would say are pretty slim,” said Abdelkader, a graduate of Muskegon Mona Shores. “I didn’t know Danny went to De La Salle until the (state) semifinals and found out they had a chance to play each other. It’s pretty neat.

“They’ve been in the finals and this is our first trip,” Abdelkader continued. “It’s exciting. We’ll have to have some sort of wager on it.”

Abdelkader’s Sailors come in with a 12-1 record, beating Farmington Hills Harrison, 25-24, in a semifinal to reach this title game.

The Wings’ forward learned of Mona Shores’ win from his dad, who called him later that afternoon.

“I know a lot of the families from around there since I still spend my summers there,” Abdelkader said. “My sister teaches at the middle school there so she knows what’s going on and my parents are around it just living in the district. It’s really exciting.”

DeKeyser’s Pilots (10-3), who needed to win their final three games of the regular season just to qualify for the playoffs, advanced with a 31-7 win over Southfield.

“I’m sticking with my guns,” DeKeyser said when asked who would win the game. “I’ve got to stick with my guys.”

Abdelkader predicted a lopsided win for his squad.

“I hope we win,” he said.

The Wings are in New Jersey Friday.

Abdelkader played football through his sophomore year of high school.

“It’s a different game than hockey was for me,” Abdelkader said. “A lot of my buddies played. I started in seventh grade. Really enjoyed it, the contact, enjoyed playing. It was a lot of fun. We were successful in middle school, but not in high school. The team has come along a long way since we played.
“It’s a different kind of game,” Abdelkader continued. “There are 11 guys, so instead of having five and a goalie there was 11, everyone has to perform to be successful.”

Abdelkader was the team’s quarterback.

“First year we ran more of a veer option,” Abdelkader said. “Second year we ran spread so we threw the ball more.

“I enjoyed running the ball, but I enjoyed passing too,” Abdelkader added. “It got tough passing the ball as the weather changed. I remember one game when it was raining I threw like four interceptions. That was our offense, we threw the ball a lot. The ball would slip, it was muddy.”

DeKeyser never played football in grade school.

“I kind of wanted to get into it, but hockey takes up so much of your time I kind of just stuck with that,” DeKeyser said.

This is Mona Shores’ first trip to the state finals, while De La Salle has been there twice – 2008 and 2006.

DeKeyser was at Ford Field watching the 2006 game as the Pilots fell to Muskegon, 32-30.

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Wings set to debut their ‘all center’ line tonight against Flyers

DETROIT >> The center of attention, so to speak, in Wednesday’s Wings home game against the Philadelphia Flyers will be their third line.

Pavel Datsyuk will center Darren Helm and Stephen Weiss.

All three are natural centers.

“We might be the only line in the NHL with three natural centers, so we should have success on the dot, hopefully, and some pretty good skill with Pav and Weisser,” Helm said. “We have to find a way to click pretty early.

“There are definitely some different aspects to our games that could gel together if we find a way to click, and it is exciting for me at least, playing with those two skilled, confident guys,” Helm continued. “If we find a way to click or gel it will be fun and pretty exciting.”

Datsyuk has missed his four straight games with a groin injury and six of the last eight.

“It’s very important for us to have him back,” Weiss said. “It’s a big boost to our lineup to have him back. Anytime he misses a game, it seems like it’s too long.”

Former Wing Kris Draper said playing on a line with Datsyuk was like winning the lottery.

“It definitely feels that way,” Weiss said. “When I saw the sheet this morning I had a little grin on my face. He makes the game a lot easier for the guys that play around him.”

Datsyuk is considered one of the best two-way players in the game if not the best.

“His ability to get the puck back is just one of the skill sets that separate him from a lot of other guys in the league, his ability to play defensively and steal pucks and turn it into offense,” Weiss said.

Datsyuk has been limited to 45 games in 2013-14 due to a knee injury and concussion. This season he’s already missed 11 of 21 games due to a separated shoulder and groin pull.

“He’s a guy I grew up watching, really and now to have a chance to play with him, it’s pretty cool,” Weiss said. “But you can’t be worried about that too much. I’ve just got to worry about what I’ve got to do and hopefully we can find some chemistry, the three of us.”

Datsyuk has five goals and six assists in 10 games this season.

“I thought initially it took him a bit to get back and then he was on fire and got hurt again,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “The big thing for Pav is as you get a little older in your career your physical fitness and the amount of care you take in keeping your body healthy is so important.

“He’s a high-end player for us,” Babcock continued. “I haven’t put him with (Henrik Zetterberg) on purpose just because … if he gets going maybe I’ll do that but right now leave him where he is and play him on a separate power play. I don’t think you can ever go wrong with having Datsyuk in your lineup.”

Not only is the line all centers, but they’ve all missed significant playing time over the past three seasons, combining to miss 306 regular-season games over that span – Weiss (140), Helm (83), Datsyuk (83).

Weiss had two goals in his return to the lineup Monday, doubling his output since joining the Wings two off-seasons ago.

“All signs are pointing towards being over the hump,” Weiss said.