By Michael Caples -
DETROIT – It wasn’t the home debut Dan DeKeyser was hoping for.
Just two days after his professional hockey debut, the new Red Wings defenseman played his first game as a member of the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena Sunday afternoon, only for his team to lose 1-0.
DeKeyser sounded like a veteran defenseman after a loss as much as a lifelong Red Wings fan living out his childhood dream.
“It was definitely fun,” the Clay Township native said, “I wish we could have gotten a win here tonight, but that’s how it goes sometimes.”
DeKeyser skated for 15:32 in his home debut, recording two shots on goal and a -1 rating. He was on the ice for the lone goal of the contest, when Chris Porter managed to get his stick on a loose puck during a scramble in front of the Red Wings’ goal.
Yet despite the one goal against, DeKeyser has impressed his first two outings with the Red Wings.
“Oh I like him,” coach Mike Babcock said. “To me when you can skate like that, he made a few errant passes but I think they’re more out of nerves than anything else. He can spin it and go to the back end and pass it up the middle. I know where good players like ‘De’ who can go get the puck and get it going versus play de zone coverage so I like watching him.”
DeKeyser said that he has certainly noticed the increase in skill level from the college game to the pros.
“It’s a little bit different, so I’m just trying to do the best I can to adjust to the pro level here,” the former Western Michigan Bronco said. “You know, it’s harder, that’s for sure, and that’s just something I’ll have to get used to.”
The Michigan native skated for 16:36 in his NHL debut Friday night, recording three takeaways in the Red Wings’ 3-2 overtime victory.
“It’s a quicker game so it’s important to move your feet out there and get some speed going,” DeKeyser said. “You can’t get caught flat-footed. If you’re flat-footed, you’re beat. I just try to keep moving, have tight gaps in the neutral zone, and get back to pucks as best I can. That’s my game, that’s what I try to do.”
He’s also been seeing time on the penalty kill – 1:41 worth of PK time today, after 1:04 on Friday. The fact that Babcock has put him in those situations isn’t lost on the rookie defenseman.
“Yeah, it feels pretty good,” DeKeyser said. “He’s putting faith in me, so I’ve got to come through in the clutch there when it matters. That’s all I can do.”
The Compuware alum also knows that his play will improve simply with more NHL experience.
I think the more I get out there, the more comfortable I get, so, I’m just going to take it one game at a time, and just try to get as comfortable as I can out there.