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Kanata, Ontario – This isn't the way Darren Helm envisioned his season beginning.

He got hurt in the opening minutes of training camp and didn't play until the regular season began. Now he's played in 13 games and hasn't scored a goal. He has one assist and a minus-4 rating.

"Not quite the way I wanted to start the year," said Helm. "There are no excuses. You have to find a way to play better, battle, and find a way to produce."

Offense isn't necessarily what Helm consistently has brought to the table over the years; it's his speed, tenacity and work ethic that's been so vital.

But Helm did score a career-high 15 goals last season and is being counted on to produce as much this time around.

"It would be nice right now, just to boost it up a little," said Helm of what a goal would mean to his confidence. "It's always nice when you're scoring. It makes things easier. But I'm not stressing over it, not beating myself over it."

Helm suffered a right shoulder injury and concussion when he collided with prospect Jerome Verrier in training camp.

Helm didn't play any exhibition games and didn't return to the lineup until Oct.17, at which point he was playing catchup to the rest of the league.

The adjustment was going to be difficult, but Helm was still unhappy with his level of play upon his return.

It's only been in recent games that Helm has felt good about his level of skating and work ethic, which gives him reason to be optimistic more production is coming.

"If I'm doing those things a little better (skating, working), the results will come," Helm said. "There's always room for improvement, but the points will come.

"I feel like I've put a few games together. But I want to keep getting better and keep improving. I want to produce and do the things that have made a good hockey players, and that's hard work and skating and being relentless on the puck. If I do those things, points will come."

At this point, Helm says missing exhibition season can't be an excuse.

"I've played 13 games now, I've had my camp, there are no excuses," Helm said.

Coach Jeff Blashill sees progress from Helm.

"The last four or five games, he's been an impactful player," Blashill said. "Helmer doesn't have to score to be an impactful player."

Blashill on Monday had Helm skating with Luke Glendening and Riley Sheahan, a fast line that potentially plays with a lot of energy.

"I'm always looking to get better," Helm said. "Looking to improve. I'm never completely happy with the way things are going. Just get better."

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

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