COSTA MESA, Calif. – Darren Helm and Todd Bertuzzi took a stroll around the mall adjacent to the Red Wings’ team hotel here in Southern California on Monday night.
The two have gotten quite chummy since they’ve spent much of the season convalescing from back injuries.
“Yeah, me and Bert have been hanging out together. It’s been good,” Helm said. “He’s been around the back pain game for a while so he’s got a lot of tips and he’s been helping me out a lot with a lot of different exercises and ways to prepare and get ready.”
Helm skated on his own at Honda Center for about 15-minutes on Monday. It was the first time that he’s skated in more than a week. And while he’s not been cleared to practice with the team, and his chances of returning to game action are null, Helm has conceded.
“I didn’t really skate too hard,” said Helm, who played in one game this season. “I don’t know if it was lack of use where it was kind of sore or if it’s actually still sore. But from what I’ve heard from all of the docs that I’ve seen it doesn’t sound like I can make it any worse.”
Both veterans have missed considerable time this season fighting through debilitating back pain that has kept each man away from the ice for long stretches. And though Bertuzzi received medical clearance last week to return to the Red Wings’ lineup, Helm continues to deal with acute pain.
“It’s been a frustrating year. I want to be out there so bad,” Helm said. “Just the way it’s worked out for me this year that I haven’t been able to get out there. But there’s still a little bit of hope left in me.”
Helm’s back pain surfaced prior to the Red Wings’ training camp in mid-January. He suffered a slight tear in a lumbar disc in his lower back while lifting weights.
Helm returned to the lineup on Jan. 25, the same day that Bertuzzi made his season debut following a long bout with flu-like symptoms that sidelined him for the first week of the season.
A week later, both players were dealing with the excruciating pain associated with a herniated disc.
“It’s really nice to have a veteran guy like that to be able to help me out,” Helm said, of Bertuzzi. “I really hadn’t experienced too much pain or back pain, he’s been dealing with that for a while, so he’s been a great help to me.”
As long as he can skate pain-free, Helm will continue to adhere to the daily routine.
“I think I can get healthy and I’d like to be able to get on the ice,” he said. “But if I can’t play, I can’t play.”
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