Detroit — They’re slowly beginning to string together wins, and now the Red Wings are also getting healthier.
The Red Wings are likely to get back Darren Helm for Friday’s game in Buffalo, adding depth to the lineup.
Helm has been out with a dislocated left shoulder since Nov. 15.
It also appears defenseman Niklas Kronwall (groin) is only days away from returning.
Kronwall practiced Thursday. He’s been increasing his workload daily since getting injured Jan. 4 in Anaheim and missing the last seven games.
Kronwall said a return in Buffalo is possible, though seemed more confident it could be Sunday against the New York Rangers.
“We’ll see what the medical team says and go from there, but I feel pretty good,” Kronwall said.
Helm has been practicing regularly the past few weeks and Thursday took part in all drills, working on a line with Justin Abdelkader and Luke Glendening.
“We expect we’ll ease Darren in the same way we eased Abby (Abdelkader) in, you can’t just throw them right into the fire when they haven’t played at all,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “You leave them susceptible to injury. We’ll ease him into that fourth line and work his way in.”
Helm has seven points (four goals, three assists) in 17 games this season with a plus-6 rating.
If Helm is ready — Blashill said a final determination would be made after Friday’s morning skate — the Red Wings will place Steve Ott on the injured list.
Blashill said Ott injured his shoulder in the Centennial Classic Jan. 1 in Toronto but continued to play through it.
Ott re-aggravated the injury Jan. 12 in Dallas and has not played the last three games.
Brendan Smith (sprained knee) also joined the Red Wings for practice for the first time since re-aggravating his knee Jan. 4 in Anaheim.
“I get to go on the trip (to Buffalo), so that’s nice,” said Smith, who is hopeful of returning after next weekend’s All-Star break. “It’s getting better. I skated with the team for the first time today and it was fun. Now I have to keep getting better.”
A hopeful sign out of the Boston victory, for Blashill, was the play of Riley Sheahan centering Tomas Tatar and Dylan Larkin.
Larkin and Tatar both scored goals, and the line was arguably the Red Wings’ best throughout the game.
With the Henrik Zetterberg and Frans Nielsen-centered lines both playing well, if a third line can develop, it would make the Red Wings that much more dangerous.
“You need guys to do it not being with Z or not playing with (Thomas) Vanek, you need the other guys to produce offense and that was a real positive for us,” Blashill said. “It’s a huge thing to be able to get a third line. To me, that could separate us, and I’ve said that dating back to last year. Nielsen’s line has been consistently good and Zetterberg’s line, whoever he’s playing with, has been consistent good. We need a third and fourth line that can produce a little bit, or produce a lot.”
Zetterberg didn’t skate Thursday, but Blashill said it was nothing more than a maintenance day and Zetterberg will be ready for Buffalo.
Zetterberg took part in Thursday morning’s news conference announcing Kid Rock would be the first entertainment act at the new Little Caesars Arena.
…What’s been the difference in the increased offense lately?c“A shooting mentality and going to the net more,” Blashill said. “We’ve been way better at that. We’ve played pretty good hockey, at least offensively. It was a matter of time before some guys who had been dry were going to score, they’ve been scorers in this league.”
Red Wings at Sabres
Faceoff: 7 p.m. Friday, KeyBank Center, Buffalo, N.Y.
TV/radio: Fox Sports Detroit, 97.1 FM
Outlook: Buffalo (17-18-9, 43 points) trail the Red Wings by three points in the Atlantic Division…The Sabres have scored the least goals (104) in the East, but C Jack Eichel (10 goals) has been hot since returning from an ankle injury.