DETROIT – The regular season opening game against the Boston Bruins on Oct. 9, is 34 days away and coach Mike Babcock already has plans to shake up the lineup with position changes, particularly in the case of center Darren Helm.
“I’m not kicking it around. I’m going to start like that,” Babcock said when asked about moving Helm, a third-line center, to a first-line wing alongside Pavel Datsyuk. “The tenacity, the pace, the heaviness on the puck and because I’ve got to have room for other guys, I think he (Helm) can help.”
The news came as no surprise to Helm, who has had an offseason to prepare in the event of a position change.
“Babs told me to be prepared for that at the end of last year,” he said. “It’s not a huge shock. I played a bit last year with some success. I don’t have to change my game too much.”
The move from third-line center — behind Datsyuk and a potentially healthy Stephen Weiss — to first-line winger would open up opportunites for Joakim Andersson, Luke Glendening, and Riley Sheahan to compete for the remaining two center spots during training camp.
“Look around the locker room and we have six or seven NHL center icemen so someone was going to have to change,” Helm said. “The guys that are coming up are great centermen. It’ll be fun to have a chance to play the wing with one of the best players in the league. I hope to find success, stay there and help this team win.”
Helm has been a third-line center for the majority of his career as a high-energy player. The move to first-line winger alongside Datsyuk could require him to generate more offense than he has in previous seasons.
“That’s not what I’m looking at right now,” he said. “My main focus is playing my game, working hard and earning my spot up there. When the opportunities come, that’s when I’ll have to focus on making the best of it, but right now I’m just getting ready to play that wing position and do the best I can.”