Healthy Helm still dangerous for Red Wings

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Lightning goalie Ben Bishop makes a save, barely, on a shot by Red Wings forward Darren Helm with the Lightning's Matthew Carle defending in the first period Tuesday.

Detroit — Looking for a fourth-line center entering the playoffs in 2008, Mike Babcock turned to a fast, energetic forward who would become known as "Danger."

"Danger" because Darren Helm had a way of creating things for the Red Wings — and opponents.

"He was dangerous to everybody ... he was flying around so fast," Babcock said Tuesday. "We didn't have a fourth line, we brought him up, and he gave us four lines with pace.

"He's hard to play against. He helped us win the Cup."

Fast forward to 2015, and Helm still has speed and has become an elite penalty killer. But heading into Tuesday's game against the Lightning, Helm has moved up on a wing with Pavel Datysuk and Tomas Tatar.

And Babcock isn't surprised at Helm's development.

"He just settled down," Babcock said. "The game slows down for you and you become what you were as a kid. That's what (Helm) has done. He gives Datsyuk pace, he's at the net, on the puck."

Helm played in 75 games this season, finishing with 33 points (15 goals) averaging 16 minutes.

In the first two games of the series against Tampa Bay, Helm had two assists.

"One of our best forwards in this series by a long shot," Babcock said.

That wasn't the case the past three seasons.

Helm was hit by the injury bug the past three years — knee, lacerated forearm, back and groin — and the Red Wings missed his speed and versatility.

This season, Helm escaped any sort of injury, giving Babcock balance and depth among the forwards.

"When we were without Helm for that long period of time, you don't know how much they mean until you lose them," Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "(He's) a force."

A key, according to Helm, is his ability to remain the same type of player at the core as when he entered the NHL.

"Not getting out of what I do best," Helm said. "Just because I'm beside (Datsyuk) doesn't mean I'm a skilled player all of a sudden, that I can handle the puck and make unbelievable plays.

"My skill is working hard and using my speed, finishing checks."