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Darren Helm set to return, bolster Red Wings lines

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — Darren Helm is likely to return to the Red Wings lineup Thursday against Florida.

And with Helm available, the Red Wings are excited about their ability to put out four balanced and deep lines that could make this a formidable team in the playoffs.

Helm skated Tuesday with most of the roster, as coach Mike Babcock gave the over-age 35 set a day off from being on the ice.

As long as Helm is cleared from his oblique strain and doesn't suffer a setback, he'll likely play against the Panthers. Hhe's missed the last seven games.

"It allows us to spread things out," Babcock said. "It puts Glennie (Luke Glendening) back in his right spot, which is real important for our team.

"We think we're going to have a real good team here."

Gledening has been used on a wing on Pavel Datsyuk's line, but will return to centering the fourth line.

Helm likely would reunite with Datsyuk and Tomas Tatar on a line that was developing chemistry and effectiveness.

"He's a real good player for us, an important player," Babcock said of Helm, who has 13 goals and 16 assists.

Helm is anxious to get back into game action.

"It's always tough being out and watching your teammates go out there and battle so hard while you're sitting in the room watching," Helm said. "As long as nothing hurts tomorrow or the next day, I feel pretty good. Hopefully I took enough time off to feel good enough to play."

Helm is optimistic his chemistry with Datsyuk and Tatar can be revisted.

"We were buzzing around pretty good and producing," Helm said. "All we can hope for is to get back out there and find a way to click and win some hockey games."

Goalie lineup

Babcock said Petr Mrazek will start in net Thursday in Florida, while Jimmy Howard will start the next night in Tampa Bay.

Mrazek starred Sunday in the 5-1 victory over Pittsburgh, stopping 42 shots.

"It's an important back-to-back we go with two goalies, Howie will get the opportunity in Tampa but Mrazek played real well the other night and got us the win and he'll go the next game," Babcock said.

All for it

NHL general managers will recommend a new 3-on-3 overtime format, and a coach's challenge to determine goaltender interference calls.

The change in overtime is aimed at reducing shootouts in the regular season. Further discussions will take place, although many GMs prefer three minutes of 4-on-4, followed by four minutes of 3-on-3.

"Anything to avoid a home-run competition at the end of the game," said Babcock, who'd prefer the 3-on-3 to the shootout.

The coach's challenge might include a video monitor at ice level for officials to review the play while communicating with hockey operations in Toronto.

"We're in the age of technology," Babcock said. "It takes two seconds to get it right. Get it right."

Right balance

Babcock gave the veteran players a day off the ice Tuesday, and will look for the correct balance between rest and ice time over these final weeks of the regular season.

"We've given our players quite a few days off, our older players to get them freshened up the best we can," Babcock said. "We'll continue to do that. It's a matter of them living right. You have to eat right, sleep right, drink right, and play right."

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

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