DETROIT -- Only a few players took part in Thursday morning's optional skate for the Detroit Red Wings, but injured center Darren Helm was one of them.
Helm, who's recovering from a Grade 2 tear of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee, got back on the ice for the first time since being injured himself March 17 in San Jose while trying to make an open-ice hit in the neutral zone.
Helm wore a brace on the knee and skated for about 30 minutes, showing some of the speed that makes him such an effective player on the Wings' third line. He's not ready to return for game action just yet, however, and remains hopeful that he could return midway through Detroit's first Stanley Cup Playoff series.
"Before I came in today, I wasn’t even sure when I'd be on the ice," Helm said. "They wanted me to get on there now and it felt better than I thought. It's still a ways away, I think, but it still helps a lot mentally. As soon as I got going, I felt pretty good. It's kind of feeling it out slowly. It's all feel now, I think. The docs will be keeping an eye on it."
As for being ready to play in the first game of the playoffs, Helm is keeping an open mind but seems to be aiming for later in the series.
"It'd be a nice goal to have," Helm said of returning for Game 1. "Previously they told me probably not Game 1. So I'm not going to be super angry if it's not Game 1. Obviously I want to be back. We have to play it as safe as possible right now. If I re-hurt it, it could be the rest of the year. At the same time, I don't want to milk it too much. It's a pretty exciting time and I want to get out there."
Helm said the biggest challenges right now on the ice are stops and starts plus any sudden side-to-side movements. This is the first time he's worn a knee brace, but he didn't seem to mind it too much.
"It didn't feel too bad," he said "It's a little stiff, a little tight. I don't think it'll be a factor when I get going."