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Darren Helm riding high tide in goals for Red Wings

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — There's a number. Just don't ask Darren Helm what it is.

"I'll let you know at the end of the year if I made it," Helm said of the goals he hoped to score this season.

For the record, the Red Wings center has 12 (entering Monday's game), tying his career high.

And with a third of the season remaining, it's pretty evident Helm will surpass that mark.

"I set myself a goal and still have what, (27) games left?" Helm said. "I hope to get a few more than that.

"I just want to continue to play the way I have. The pucks have been going in."

This season arguably has been Helm's best since joining the Red Wings full time in 2009.

Known more as a defensive, energy player, Helm has added offense to his game.

But there's not just one thing that has forged that improvement.

"(It's) experience, opportunity and playing with some pretty good guys," Helm said. "All of those things help play a factor with me putting up some more points than I usually do."

Staying healthy is another.

Helm suffered a knee injury in March 2012, beginning a string of bad luck. He returned for the playoffs that spring, only to suffer a lacerated forearm in Game 1 against the Predators.

During the lockout season a year later, Helm was limited to one game with a back injury.

And then, groin and back injuries limited Helm the first half of last season before he returned to play 42 games.

Still, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock believes Helm, at 28, is entering the prime of his career.

"He's getting better as a player," Babcock said. "They don't arrive as stars. It takes a while to get to that point. (Age 28) is usually the prime of your career until around 32. He's just hitting his stride.

"He's coming of age."

For all of the talk about offense, however, Helm doesn't want to be forgotten as a hard-driving checking center who can disrupt an opposing team, while also being an important penalty killer.

"I want to score but when I start thinking I'm a skill guy and scoring goals, I don't play as well," Helm said. "I'm still a hard-working guy who skates and opportunities will come."