– Darren Helm
was quite optimistic following Monday morning’s practice at Joe Louis Arena that he’ll be ready for Game 2 of the Red Wings’ Western Conference quarterfinal series at Nashville Friday night.
“It's been feeling great the last few days, been skating well,” said Helm, who strained the MCL in his left knee last month in San Jose. “Today felt really good, a lot better than the last couple of days. If it just keeps progressing, don't have any setbacks than Game 2 should be a pretty good possibility.”
For the Wings to have success, coach Mike Babcock has stressed the importance of having a healthy Helm in the lineup and centering the team’s third forward line between forwards Danny Cleary
and Drew Miller
“That’s why we need Helm back,” Babcock said. “He seems to be the key to the bottom six. He plugs into the three hole and Abby in the four hole. Then suddenly we’re a different hockey club depth-wise. That will be our plan. How soon we can do that remains to be seen.”
Helm skated for nearly an hour with the team, but he wore a “grey” practice jersey signifying “no contact”, meaning he sat out most of the team drills. But all in all, the knee felt better than it did when he first returned to the ice last Thursday.
“I didn't really push it too hard physically,” he said. “So I don't really know where it's at, but it definitely feels a lot better than first day I skated.”
Helm missed the final 10 games of the regular-season and was among a long list of Wings injured since late February. Everyone else returned to action with a few games to shake off the rust prior to the playoffs, which begin Wednesday in Nashville, but Helm will get to get up to speed during the most important time of the year.
“Probably take a couple games to get to be as effective as I was in the regular-season,” said Helm, who had nine goals and 17 assists. “Definitely be playing a lot more simple, the way I played when I first came in with the team in the playoffs in ’08.
“I want to get out there extremely bad, watching games is no fun, playoffs is here, that's what you play for the whole year. I'm almost there and want to get out there and help the team.”Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose