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Detroit — Like quite a few Red Wings these days, Darren Helm isn't thrilled with the way he has started this season.

Without a point through five games, with a minus-3 rating and not playing with his usual energy, Helm isn't pleased.

"I don't have any excuses for it right now," Helm said. "It's just something I have to be way better."

Actually there is an excuse, if you want to call it that.

Remember, it was Helm who was involved in a major collision with prospect Jerome Verrier the opening drill of training camp that resulted in Helm suffering a slight shoulder separation and a concussion (Verrier broke his leg).

Helm missed the entire training camp and exhibition season as well as the opening four games of the regular season.

In coach Jeff Blashill's mind, that's a major hurdle to overcome once the regular season begins.

"When you miss training camp, this becomes training camp and it's hard when it's full-go to get your game going," Blashill said. "Helmer will be a lot better tonight than he was the last game, and better the next game, and he'll keep getting better.

"It's (preseason) is vital. Not that they don't come in great shape, they come in unbelievable shape. But it's like I was talking with Kroner (Niklas Kronwall) the other day, there's nothing like the bumping and grinding of practice and in the pace. You can't replicate that. And Helmer is coming out of a concussion, so he has to get where he's comfortable to dish out a hit and take a hit and to be comfortable with it to be effective.

"The reality of it is, it takes time."

An engaged and effective Helm makes the Red Wings a tougher team.

"At his best he has great tenacity and physicality," Blashill said. "He has big time speed, and that's what he'll bring to the table as we move forward.

"It's (training camp, preseason) real vital.

Helm believed he was on his way back, out of his doldrums, until watching video with coaches the other day.

What bothered Helm was his work ethic — or lack thereof.

"I thought I was working but it didn't look like I was in the video," Helm said. "It's something I have to do a lot better job of.

"I thought I was doing the right things, skating, but just watching the video I wasn't getting to my spots and not nearly as hard as I need to be, to be effective."

If Helm gets back to the level of skating he usually has, there's a good chance the other aspects of his game will also come along.

"Like physicality, more scoring chances, opportunities as well," Helm said ."I just have to get back to really skating, skating and working hard and my game will follow from there."

Blashill had Helm primarily on a wing to start the season but switched Helm back to his normal center position Friday against Ottawa.

Helm was centering Tomas Jurco and Teemu Pulkkinen, which theoretically will make Helm move his feet and play with speed.

"It'll get me moving a little more," said Helm of playing center. "It forces me to be one of the first guys back. I can get a little more speed coming down (the ice) and into the play. I have to work a lot harder and skate more and hopefully it gives me the mental boost I need."

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

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