Wings welcome back Helm's speed, competitiveness

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Buffalo Sabres forward Evander Kane (9) is pressured by Detroit Red Wings forward Darren Helm (43) during the first period.

Buffalo, N.Y. — Darren Helm has certainly been through this before.

Few players have had to overcome injuries like Helm, who dealt with a continuous stretch of them several seasons ago.

Friday Helm returned from a dislocated left shoulder suffered in November, a frustrating injury considering Helm’s fine start to the season.

“Just based on that fact (a good start), it was a little frustrating,” said Helm,  who had seven points (four goals, three assists) in 17 games, with a plus-6 rating. “But the whole rehab and everything went kind of according to plan, it took a little longer than I was hoping (to return), but you just keep going and keep a positive mindset and now I’m back.”

Helm was scheduled to be on a line with Luke Glendening and Justin Abdelkader, a tough-minded and physical fourth line.

Helm was expected to be the center on the line, although he was expected to lean on the two wingers in the early going.

“Glennie and Abby will help me out a lot,” Helm said. “If they get down low, or if I get caught, I’m expecting those guys to carry the load a little bit with me. Those guys are experienced, smart defensively, so it should be a little bit easier to jump back in.

“We have to get pucks deep, try to grind and be three pretty effective forecheckers, bang some bodies and hopefully get pucks to the net.”

Coach Jeff Blashill was pleased to get Helm’s assets back in the lineup.

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“He’s ultra fast and he’s ultra competitive and those are two things he brings to your team,” Blashill said. “When we started at the beginning of the year, we wanted two things, to be relentless and fast and he embodies that.

“He had an excellent start to the year, and obviously it was unfortunate he got hurt. But that’s part of what every team deals with.”

Managing Helm’s minutes early will also be of importance.

“We’ll ease him both from a line perspective and from a penalty-kill perspective,” Blashill said. “I don’t know if I can say how he is going to play. I’m going to watch and see how he feels.

“The one thing with Darren, he only knows one way to play and it’s fast and hard and competitive, so I’m sure he’ll play that way and I have to manage his minutes properly and give him the minutes he deserves.”

Fond memories

Thomas Vanek began his career in Buffalo,  spent nine successful seasons with the Sabres, and remains a fan of the city and organization.

“I still have a ton of friends here, away from the ice,” Vanek said. “This is a team I’ve played with, I always follow, and I hope they have success — but obviously not tonight.

“This is a franchise that people deserve a good product and winner, and it’s definitely the one team I’ve been keeping tabs on.”

Vanek was traded by the Sabres to the New York Islanders, who traded him to Montreal. He then signed as a free agent with Minnesota — where he played college hockey — before getting bought out and signing with the Red Wings last summer.

“I’ve made a lot of friends over the years,” Vanek said. “Buffalo is awesome. I always say to other people you’ll love it here. I didn’t want to leave (2014) but at the time, I didn’t know which direction this franchise was going. I had a few questions and none of them were answered, so I guess I was a little selfish and wanted to move on.

“It hasn’t been easy but definitely it opened my eyes on different things and how organizations run things.”

Ice chips

With Helm returning, the Red Wings placed forward Steve Ott (shoulder) on injured reserve.

… Blashill said defenseman Niklas Kronwall (groin) would return Sunday when the Red Wings face the New York Rangers. Another personnel move will have to be made at that point, possibly moving Jimmy Howard (sprained knee) to long-term injured reserve.

Howard went on the ice after Friday’s morning skate, and Blashill mentioned Howard could be ready to practice shortly after the All-Star break — in early February.

… Glendening was feeling ill after the morning skate, but felt he would be good to go at game time.