VANCOUVER – He’s on pace to having the best season of his career, and nobody can use that kind of confidence more than Darren Helm, who has experienced his share of doubt over the past few years.
A litany of injury issues kept Helm out of the Wings’ lineup for much of the past three seasons.
Finally healthy again – knock on wood – Helm is returning to his speedy pre-injury abilities, producing seven goals and 18 points this season. His two-goal performance in the Wings’ last outing helped secure a 3-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on New Year’s Eve.
“It feels great,” Helm said of his turn-around season. “Up until last two games, I thought the 10 before that I’ve been playing well. Kind of a slower start, wanted to kind of feel out my body and see the situation I was in. I was able to overcome that and started playing hard. I think I got my step back a little bit after Christmas. Hopefully I can get a good push here up until the All-Star break and then the rest of the season.”
The 27-year-old Helm is one of nine players to appear in all 38 of the Red Wings games this season.
Certainly no stranger to his own injury plights of the past, captain Henrik Zetterberg is happy to see Helm regain some of his old luster.
“It’s always nice to see that he gets credit for the hard work he puts in,” Zetterberg said. “It’s not easy to be injured and go through rehabs and spending a lot of time working out. It’s nice to see that he gets some goals and gets some points.”
Helm began the season on the wing, a position that he hasn’t played much of since joining the Red Wings seven seasons ago. In fact, coach Mike Babcock once referred to Helm as the league’s best third-line center.
Clearly, however, injuries to a knee, his lower back, and concussion-like symptoms, forced Babcock to reconsider Helm’s role once he returned.
For all that he’s gone through, Helm says, he’s stronger and smarter for having dealt with the constant adversity.
“It takes a lot more than just coming in and going onto the ice, for me at least,” he said. “I got lots to do. I’m not getting too excited if something doesn’t feel right. I’m patient. I do what I need to do and make sure I’m ready to play for that night or the next couple of games.”
Now back in his more familiar role as the team’s third-line center, Helm partnered on a line with Gustav Nyquist and Johan Franzen. Though, Tomas Jurco took Nyquist’s spot on Helm’s line at practice Friday afternoon at Rogers Arena.
“We were all kind of struggling when we got put together,” Helm said. “We didn’t have the best first couple of games together. We’ve had shifts in the last couple of games when we’ve played well together. (Wednesday) I thought we did a better job. Hopefully with the way we played (against the Devils) things will keep going in a positive direction for us.”
To the delight of their coach, the third line produced a combined six points and were a plus-6 in the win over New Jersey.
“He was good,” Babcock said of Helm. “I didn't think his line was any good at all in Boston. It was great to see they bounced back and were that solid. All of them had a good night. That was a big goal they scored to tie it. Then obviously a great goal to put the game out of reach. But those guys were good.”