As center Stephen Weiss rehabs a groin injury and wing Johan Franzen is out with an upper-body injury, Darren Helm has earned a unique opportunity with the Detroit Red Wings.
After a back injury limited him to one game since the 2011-12 season, Helm enjoyed a triumphant return to the Detroit lineup Nov. 2 against the Edmonton Oilers. The center scored his first goal since March 9, 2012 at 5:09 into the game and was credited with the game-winner in the 5-0 victory. Two nights later, he visited his hometown when the Red Wings lost on the road 4-2 against the Winnipeg Jets.
Helm played 7:46 against the Jets, but he should see a sizeable increase in his ice time with Weiss out of the lineup. In Detroit's morning skate Saturday, Helm centered the second line between Daniel Alfredsson and Tomas Tatar as the Red Wings prepare to face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night.
"I think it's coming around," Helm said. "Each game I'm starting to fit in a little bit, get a little more comfortable with everything. I think I still got a little ways to go."
The game Saturday will be a homecoming of sorts for two prominent members of the Lightning. Former Red Wings forward Valtteri Filppula returns to Detroit for the first time since signing during the summer with the Lightning. Filppula spent seven seasons with the Red Wings and won the Stanley Cup in 2008.
"I think he's a pretty calm guy, but inside there'll be extra butterflies," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said of Filppula. "Once the puck drops though, a game's a game."
Cooper can appreciate any nerves Filppula might feel. Cooper earned his law degree in Michigan and started his coaching career in the state. It was there he befriended Red Wings coach Mike Babcock.
"He was kind of like a mentor for me. He was very helpful," Cooper said. "We've stayed in touch ever since. Tonight, for two-and-a-half hours, we won't be buddies."
Here is the projected lineup for the Lightning:
Alex Killorn - Steven Stamkos - Martin St. Louis
Ryan Malone - Valtteri Filppula - Teddy Purcell
Brett Connolly - Tyler Johnson - Ondrej Palat
B.J. Crombeen - Nate Thompson - Richard Panik
Radko Gudas - Matthew Carle
Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Sami Salo - Mark Barberio
Scratched: Keith Aulie, Andrej Sustr
Injured: Brian Lee (knee), Tom Pyatt (upper body)
Here are is the projected lineup for the Red Wings, according to Ansar Khan of MLive.com:
Henrik Zetterberg - Pavel Datsyuk - Todd Bertuzzi
Tomas Tatar - Darren Helm - Daniel Alfredsson
Drew Miller - Joakim Andersson - Justin Abdelkader
Daniel Cleary - Luke Glendening - Patrick Eaves
Niklas Kronwall - Danny DeKeyser
Brian Lashoff - Jakub Kindl
Kyle Quincey - Xavier Ouellet
Scratched: Mikael Samuelsson, Jordin Tootoo
Injured: Jonathan Ericsson (upper body), Brendan Smith (shoulder), Stephen Weiss (groin), Johan Franzen (upper body)