Thomas Vanek, Jonathan Ericsson near return for rolling Red Wings
Detroit — They’re earning victories these days, and the Red Wings are getting healthier, too.
If winning eight of their last 10 games wasn’t enough, the Wings appear to getting forward Thomas Vanek and defenseman Jonathan Ericsson back any day — softening the loss of forward Darren Helm.
Vanek and Ericsson both practiced Monday, but coach Jeff Blashill wasn’t ready to pencil in either for the lineup Wednesday against Boston.
Blashill termed both Vanek and Ericsson “day to day."
“Vanek skated today and we’ll see how he reacts (for Tuesday’s practice),” Blashill said. “We’ll have more information based on how he reacts. I would say the same thing with Jonathan Ericsson. He skated, we’ll know more tomorrow, how the reaction is.”
Vanek was hurt on a knee-on-knee collision Oct. 30 in Columbus, and has missed the last eight games.
Vanek had two goals and three assists in the final seven games before he was hurt, an indication the Wings hope he was heating up after going pointless in his first five games.
“I’ve been skating for the last eight or nine days," Vanek said. "Skating-wise, I feel fine. It’s just you have to feel a little contact, a little battle, and see how it reacts. It went pretty well for the most part. We’ll see how it feels (Tuesday).”
Ericsson hurt himself Nov. 1 in a postgame workout in the weight room, and missed the last seven games. This, after missing the first seven games of the season after suffering a training camp injury.
It’s been a frustrating start to this season for the veteran defenseman.
“Especially since it (this injury) happened off the ice, so it’s very frustrating,” Ericsson said. “I just started to feel good, too. I had my best two games just before it happened, and you have to start all over again.
“It’s just not the same when you’re skating or practicing; games are always going to be different. That was frustrating. The last injury I was able to skate a lot. I felt good skating, but you come into a game and all the timing, I hadn’t played in an NHL game since April 7, it takes some time to getting back and feeling good and just as I was feeling good, I did this to myself.”
Both veterans are encouraged by the way the Wings have rebounded these last 10 games (8-2-0, best record in the NHL), as compared to the first 10 games (1-7-2, worst record in the NHL).
“We found ways to lose games early, just found ways to lose, but throughout that stretch our goaltending has been tremendous,” Vanek said. “It’s small things. As a team you need to win a couple and you feel better.
“Individual players, you have to get a couple points or goals, or whatever, and you feel more comfortable and you’ve seen that over last few weeks.”
Blashill said Helm (shoulder) was being evaluated and the team would have a better prognosis of how long Helm would be unavailable Tuesday.
“It isn’t a day to day thing, he’ll be out for a good amount of time, for sure,” Blashill said.
Helm hurt himself Saturday after falling awkwardly near the boards.
Losing Helm’s competitveness and work ethic, Blashill said, will be difficult.
“You have no chance if you don’t work and compete,” Blashill said. “That’s where Darren Helm is big. Certainly we’re going to miss him (on the penalty kill, 5-on-5), but he was a consistent worker and competitive person, and now, everybody does that consistently as he’s done it, then we’ll be fine.
“Other guys have to make sure the come in and have the similar approach as the work and compete (Helm had).”
This is also the latest of several long-term injuries Helm has had during his career.
“I also feel bad for Darren," Blashill said. "He’s had a lot of tough stretches with injuries, and I can’t say enough good things about him as a professional."
Blashill said there’s no plans to recall anyone from Grand Rapids given Helm’s injury, as Vanek is close to returning.
… Blashill indicated he may replace Helm on Dylan Larkin’s line with Justin Abdelkader, who saw time there Saturday once Helm was hurt.
“He fills a similar type of role,” Blashill said. “Abby has been skating real good, he’s been real good over the last number of games.”