Helm returns to practice with Red Wings, but has long road ahead
Detroit – A day after Bobby Ryan returned to practice, the Red Wings welcomed back another teammate.
Darren Helm, who hasn’t been around due to NHL COVID protocols, took part in Saturday’s morning skate.
Helm took part in one practice on Jan. 1 and hasn’t been on the ice since.
Now, it’ll take some time for the veteran forward to catch up to speed.
“You miss that much time, 14 days of not exercising basically, it’s going to take a little bit,” said coach Jeff Blashill after the morning skate. “I can’t put an exact timeline on it but you’d certainly need a number of great skates and practices.”
For Helm, that’ll begin Sunday with a full-scale practice.
But, again, the Wings will build things up gradually and work on Helm’s endurance.
“(Sunday) will be his first chance to really practice with us and it won’t be a long practice, so it gets hard,” Blashill said. “We’re going to have to maximize the skates we have and get him back going at full speed."
Blashill said he will look at several factors before putting Helm in including his "readiness to be an impact player and how the rest of the players are doing.”
Thursday’s season opener was Blashill’s first of the season, obviously, coaching a game with a protective mask on.
Like everything else this season, it was an adjustment.
“It was probably good for everybody but me because they (players, referees) can’t hear me,” Blashill said. “The refs like it because we’re muzzled and they’ve wanted to muzzle us for a long time. The players can hear you, but it’s different.
“I’d wear a body suit for whatever is needed, from head to toe protection if needed, to coach a hockey game right now. Certainly a mask is the least of my worries.”
Despite the masks on the benches for coaches, and no fans in the stands, Blashill didn’t notice hearing anything more than normal from players on the ice or the opposing bench.
“We didn’t hear them at all,” Blashill said. “It didn’t feel like a practice.”
It was a Staal reunion for the season opener, at least.
Carolina’s Jordan Staal was unavailable Saturday, having gone into COVID quarantine.
Red Wings defenseman Marc Staal had no contact with his younger brother, other than being on the ice during Thursday’s game.
“Everyone is trying to be safe as possible, and those rules are there for a reason,” said Marc Staal, noting the two would have likely gone to dinner had this been normal times. “We’re doing our best to stay safe and that’s all that we can do and take it day by day.”
Marc Staal added it was nice to at least be on the ice together for the season opener.
“It definitely doesn’t get old,” Staal said. “You’re still playing against him at the highest level, that’s pretty special, pretty cool.”