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Wings’ Darren Helm remains cool about hot start

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News
Detroit center Darren Helm

Detroit – Darren Helm has gone from some difficulty discerning his role last season to leading the Detroit Red Wings in goals with four in the five played heading into the match against the San Jose Sharks Saturday at Joe Louis Arena.

Helm is happy. But it does not make the 29-year-old from Winnipeg any less understated.

“Uh, puck just seems to be going in right now,” he said after Saturday’s morning skate. “I’m very happy that it’s doing that.

“I’m playing with some pretty good players, as well; giving me a lot of opportunities to shoot the puck and giving me good looks.

“I’m just having fun right now.”

That was coach Jeff Blashill’s goal, stated in an interview in early May, after the Red Wings’ disappointing season and another elimination in the first round of the playoffs.

Blashill said flatly that some of his players unhappy in their roles were within their rights to feel that way.

Helm weighed the situation and the alternatives as he and his representatives negotiated a five-year, $19.25 million contract in the offseason.

Mike Babcock used to say said Helm could be the best third-line center in the NHL.

Blashill thought Riley Sheahan, Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist would make a great third line, consistent with the Wings’ plans to roll all four groups of forwards last season.

It was less than a complete success.

And, early this season, mostly on a line with Nyquist and the offensively-gifted Thomas Vanek, Helm’s hands are as capable as he is fast, and he is leading the team’s rebound to three straight wins after consecutive losses to open the season.

“They’re really good players,” Helm said. “Sometimes you have it and sometimes you don’t, with different linemates. Right now, it seems like we’re clicking and finding some ways to score some goals. It’s not like that all the time.

“Sometimes you have to play months at a time to find that chemistry. We seem to have picked it up quickly, and it’s been fun playing with those guys.”

With the Red Wings re-emphasizing team speed this season, at Blashill’s urging, the offensive plans should suit Helm.

“I think we’ve got the guys that are going to buy into that system and, if we all do that, then we’ll be a successful team.”

Blashill is impressed and pleased with Helm.

“I think Helmer’s been as consistent a forward as we’ve had all year,” he said. “His tenacity, his speed, his competitive level makes him special.”

With the quick success after his new deal, Helm said he likes the way things are turning out.

“It was nice signing the deal, and it’s nice to be able to do something with that contract to show that I deserved it.

“And hopefully I can continue to play well enough, and deserve that deal.”

You never know

The line on which Helm plays has clicked, but others are not as successful.

Blashill has done some juggling already, even though he has stated a goal of more consistency in the selections throughout the season.

He was not certain of the success of Helm, Nyquist and Vanek together, he said. But he liked the skills of the players.

“You don’t know,” he said, of the success a line can achieve. “But I would say that I had confidence in all three guys in their unique abilities. It could be a good line.

“Obviously, we put it together, but you never know for sure.”

Trying not to press

Two forwards, from whom offense is expected, perked up against the Predators on Friday night. Tatar and Nyquist both got their first goals of the season, consecutively, in the third period.

“Well, I can tell them not to worry,” Blashill said, of his efforts earlier in the week to get some of his more hard-pressed players to relax a bit. “But there’s no question that when you don’t score, it’s frustrating when you’re a scorer, and scoring breeds confidence.

“My thing as a coach is to remind them that process matters the most, and to continue doing what they’re doing and the goals will come. The biggest mistake players make when they don’t score and they’re playing well is to change how they’re playing. So, that was my job to remind them.”

Evaluating his game Friday in the dressing room after the win, Tatar foreshadowed what Blashill said the next morning.

“I’m trying to just go over the process, trying to do good things, and when you do good things, good things will happen to you,” Tatar said. “Just play the right game, do the right stuff out there to help the team.”

He admitted to pressing bit, looking for that first marker.

”You do, for sure,” said Tatar, who now has 75 goals and 75 assists in 268 NHL games. “It’s probably the best for you when you score the first few games.”