NASHVILLE -- On Wednesday before Game 1 of his team's Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Nashville Predators, Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock talked about the benefits that center Darren Helm would bring to the lineup after missing more than three weeks with a sprained knee.
On Thursday, he found himself discussing the repercussions of Helm now having to miss the remainder of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs after suffering lacerated tendons in his right forearm in Game 1. Helm underwent surgery Wednesday night at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and is expected to make a full recovery in time for training camp next season. Babcock said Helm did not suffer any nerve damage.
PREDATORS VS. RED WINGS
Game 1 Recap: Preds 3, Red Wings 2
John Manasso - NHL.com Correspondent In his first career playoff game, Nashville Predators rookie left wing Gabriel Bourque said he felt nerves. But by the two goals the 21-year-old third-liner scored, including the eventual game-winner with 8:25 left in regulation, it would be hard to tell. READ MORE ›
Babcock said losing Helm is just another level of adversity that his team must overcome.
"It's tough for the kid," Babcock said. "I mean, he's a great kid. He plays hard, he's an important part of our team. It's the same thing as the [Shea] Weber incident, this incident. What do you do? You move on and you get ready for another game. We've got to win a game here [Friday]. That's what our focus has to be. I feel bad for Helmer. … We're very thankful that there was no nerve damage and so I think that's the most important thing and that he's going to get well and have a summer to train and get back at here in the fall."
Captain Nick Lidstrom said it was 'heart-breaking" for Helm, as well as a loss for the team.
"His speed and what he can do at both ends of the ice will affect us," Lidstrom said.
Babcock had said Wednesday that Helm is a big boost to the Red Wings' supplementary scoring and his presence in the lineup makes their bottom two lines better.
"We're not filling his role," Babcock said. "It's like all important players that you miss. You don't fill their role, you get someone else to do what they do in a time slot."
Babcock said rookie forward Gustav Nyquist would take Helm's spot in the lineup. Nyquist bounced up and down from Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League throughout the season, spending four different stints with the Red Wings this season. He has been with the team full-time since March 19, which coincided with Helm's knee injury.
For the season, Nyquist, 22, had one goal and six assists in 18 games, but he set Grand Rapids' all-time rookie scoring record with 58 points in 56 games.
"Looking back, I didn't think I'd get a chance to play in the playoffs when the season started, but if it happens, it's going to be a lot of fun," he said.
Justin Abdelkader (eight goals, 14 assists, plus-4 in 81 games) figures to take Helm's role as third-line center. He skated at practice Thursday on a line with Nyquist on his left and Danny Cleary on his right. Babcock praised Abdelkader's play in Game 1.
"We get some more minutes here and just got to make the most of it and play my game and be physical, be on the pucks, take pucks to the net," Abdelkader said.
Over and over, the Red Wings and their coach sounded that theme. Nyquist seemed to get the message.
"We have to drive the middle hard and try to get on the inside of them and stand in front of [Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne] a lot," Nyquist said.
Babcock referred to Rinne as a "second-shot goalie," meaning Rinne almost always makes the save on the first shot, so Detroit needs to do more to score on rebounds. The Red Wings failed to score at even strength, getting both of their goals on the power play while all three of Nashville's came at even-strength.
The Red Wings coach said two of Nashville's goals did not bother him -- one deflected off Red Wings defenseman Brad Stuart's skate and another deflected off the shaft of the stick of Preds left wing Gabriel Bourque -- but Babcock thought the Predators' third goal was the big one. It put Nashville up 3-1 with 8:25 left in regulation, as he said his team failed to execute on clearing a dump-in behind the net between goalie Jimmy Howard and a defenseman. Nashville had two men deep, won the puck and Bourque wound up wide open for the eventual game-winner.
Babcock said Detroit got 17 shots on the power play in Game 1, a number that he felt would be "impossible" to duplicate.
"The reality is we've got to do more at even strength, which I've addressed already," he said, "so, to me, we've got to put more pressure on their [defensemen] and their goaltender."