DETROIT – While last Thursday was a bittersweet day at Joe Louis Arena – with the announcement that Nicklas Lidstrom had decided to retire – a few of his former Red Wings teammates were happy to be up and around.
Both Danny Cleary and Darren Helm are on the mend following surgeries to repair damage incurred in the regular-season and postseason, respectively. Each is expected to be ready for training camp in September.
Cleary had surgery in early May to address concerns with two Baker’s cysts that had formed behind his left knee and caused other internal damage. For six months, Cleary dealt with the excruciating discomfort, even having fluid drained nearly every 10 days in the last half of the season.
However, Helm’s ordeal was of a more serious nature when he had his right forearm filleted by a skate blade during the first period of the playoff opener in Nashville.
Pain-killing injections insured Cleary’s participation in each playoff game against the Predators, something that he couldn’t do during the season, he said. But even as he tried to work through the pain, it clearly limited his effectiveness on the ice and hindered his life away from the rink too.
Now that surgery has given him some mobility and range of motion in the leg, Cleary is back to feeling normal again.
“Knee feels great,” said Cleary, who finished the season with 12 goals and 21 assists in 75 games. “My ability to be able to function as a normal-type of guy, walking, stuff, feels great. Just rahabbing it, It's been three weeks since my surgery, I'm really happy.”
Seven weeks after his emergency surgery in a Nashville hospital, Helm is feeling like a new man since the cast was removed last Wednesday.
“The strength is coming back, the movement is pretty good. Doctors are saying I should make a full recovery,” said Helm, who produced nine goals and 17 assists in 68 games last season. “I'm starting to do more therapy on it, where I can do different strength activities. (Wednesday) was really the first day outside of the cast, so doctors took a look at it and said it's ahead of schedule, they thought.”
There was some thought that Helm’s injury could have been career-threatening. As was the cast with Mike Modano a season-ago, severed tendons require a delicate surgery with no guarantees.
At first glance, Helm’s injury looked innocent enough. While killing a penalty, the Wings’ center delivered a hard body-check to Predators’ Alexander Radulov along the boards. The hit knocked Radulov back and as the Preds’ forward fell his right skate came off the ice as Helm simultaneously fell forward. The skate blade cut Helm between the glove and elbow pad.
The recovery has been a tedious thing, but Helm is confident that he’ll be ready for the start of the 2012-13 season.
“Got a few more months before camp,” he said. “I should be working out hard in a couple of months and get back and ready for camp. Should be ready for the start of camp; I'll be ready for Game 1.”
As for Cleary, he’s looking forward to getting back on the ice in July, but for now, just some of the simple things that he usually takes for granted are a pleasure.
“It's a huge difference,” he said. “To be able to walk normal – to be able to get out of your car – and walk normal, since November it's been (hard). It's amazing how your body functions differently when you're hobbling. Everything is off, your groin is sore, your glut is sore. I'm really happy about it.
“If camp was in July I'd be ready. I feel great, ready to go. I got a lot of time to make sure I do it the right way.”
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