NASHVILLE – Detroit got back key third-line center Darren Helm for the first game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Wednesday after he missed the final 10 games of the regular season with a sprained knee, but then lost him in the first period of Game 1 of his team's Western Conference Quarterfinal series to a grisly cut on his arm.
During a Predators' power play with about six minutes remaining in the first period, Helm was cut by the skate of the Preds' Alex Radulov on his forearm and left the ice immediately, leaving his glove behind, while the puck remained in his team's zone. Helm, 25, ran down the tunnel to the locker room. Detroit coach Mike Babcock said after the game that Helm had to be taken to a local hospital for surgery, but he had few other details.
"We don't know to what extent or how severe -- if any tendons are anything like that -- are cut," Babcock said. "I don't know that, but it was pretty severe. I mean, as soon as it happened, he skated straight to the bench and we were on the penalty kill. He'd never do that unless …" – he let the implication hang in the air.
"So, obviously, they took him from the game right away," Babcock said. "It's a tough blow. That's just the way things go."
Detroit defenseman Brad Stuart reacted to the situation after the game.
"You have to feel bad for him," Stuart said. "He's worked hard to get back. I don't know what the severity of his injury is, but hopefully it's not too bad…. He worked hard to get back and it only lasted a couple of shifts. Hopefully, he'll be all right. If he's not back, it's going to be a big loss for us, but somebody else will have to step up for us."
Earlier in the day, Babcock spoke about Helm's importance to the team. He totaled nine goals and 17 assists in 68 games. He provides Detroit with some speed and is a helpful penalty killer up front.
Most significantly, Babcock said Helm is something of a keystone that holds the team's lineup together.
"Well, Helmer puts everybody in the right spot," Babcock said. "We had a great bottom six all year long and then we lost our people [to numerous injuries] and we had no bottom six, we had no support scoring. You know, it's amazing when you put people in the right spot. When I look at their team, I see [Nick] Spaling and [Paul] Gaustad in the three-four holes [at center], those are good matchups for us. They weren't without [Helm]."
Detroit scratched 22-year-old rookie Gustav Nyquist on Wednesday. Nyquist, who had one goal and six assists in 18 regular season games, could take Helm's spot in the lineup.