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Helm looks to speed it up

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings
Darren Helm has played five games since returning to the Red Wings' lineup after suffering a concussion and separated shoulder in training camp. But for the first time this season, Helm will play center, a role he has had throughout his NHL career. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT -- Never underestimate the importance of training camp and the exhibition season.

After a horrific collision with Jerome Verrier in the first drill of camp, Darren Helm suffered a concussion and a slightly separated shoulder and missed the rest of the preseason.

Helm returned to the lineup Oct. 17 at Montreal but has not recorded a point in five games.

Asked where his game is, Helm said, "A lot lower than it needs to be. I thought I was doing all right, but after looking at some video, I'm pretty far from where I need to be. I thought I was working but it didn't look like I was working too much in the video so it's something I'm going to have to do a lot better job of."

After Thursday's practice, coach Jeff Blashill sat on the bench with Helm for a brief discussion.

"When you miss training camp, this becomes training camp and it’s hard when it’s full-go to get your game going," Blashill said. "There’s nothing like the bumping and grinding that goes on in practices and games and you can’t replicate that. Helm is coming off a concussion, he’s got to get himself where he’s comfortable dishing out the hits that he needs to in order to be effective, where he’s comfortable taking the hits to be effective. And that takes time."

Speed has always been Helm's trademark but it hasn't been as noticeable since he came back.

"I thought I was doing the right things skating, but just watching the video, I wasn't getting really to my spots, wasn't skating nearly as hard as I need to be to be effective," Helm said. "I just gotta get back to really just skating, working hard, then I think the game will follow from there."

Blashill has moved Helm back to the middle, centering Tomas Jurco and Teemu Pulkkinen.

"Hopefully that will get me moving a little bit more," Helm said. "It kind of forces me to be one of the first guys back. If I can get a little bit of speed coming down from below, coming up into the play. I guess mentally I know I have to work a lot harder, skate a lot more, so hopefully that can give me the mental boost that I need."

Blashill said he expects Helm to continue to improve.

"When Helm’s at his best he’s got great tenacity and he’s physical and he’s got big-time speed," Blashill said. "That’s what he’ll bring to the table as we continue to move forward here.”

The best news is that Helm said he doesn't have any lingering aftereffects of the concussion.

"I feel good," Helm said. It's just that mental aspect of really just pushing myself harder to skate more and more, get involved physically. If I skate hard and work hard, just mentally do that, then I feel like I'm in good shape and everything else will follow."

MARCHENKO HOPING TO CONTRIBUTE: Defenseman Alexey Marchenko was thrown into the fire after both Kyle Quincey and Mike Green were injured against the Calgary Flames a week ago.

Marchenko had to fly from Grand Rapids to Vancouver to make it in time for Saturday night's game.

"I saw Green get hurt and I didn’t know about Q, so I was like I don’t know, but I was thinking maybe," Marchenko said. "Then Kenny (Holland) called me and I was like ‘OK, I have to go.’ So you just have to do your job."

Marchenko, who played for the Griffins against Charlotte last Friday, then had to get ready to fly at 7:30 Saturday morning.

"Just go to bed and do what you have to do," Marchenko said. "If you have three hours to sleep you have to sleep. You don’t need to stay awake and wait for the plane and then you’ll be like done for the game time. So just go to sleep and take a nap after lunch and play your best."

Marchenko has played in two games, including the one in Vancouver.

Green is expected to miss two to three weeks with an upper-body injury and Quincey is out indefinitely with a concussion, so that will give Marchenko more of an opportunity.

Marchenko knows what he needs to improve.

"Quickness, you know, and be responsible on the defensive end and make a good breakout pass, just don’t turn over the puck, don’t play in our own zone," Marchenko said. "You rarely get scored on if you’re not playing in your own zone."

HOME AND HOME WITH SENATORS: The Wings are one point behind the Ottawa Senators in the Atlantic Division.

So this weekend is a good opportunity for the Wings to gain some ground, but they know they have their work cut out for them.

"They’re extremely well-coached, so they don’t give you anything easy, it’s tight for sure," Blashill said. "I think they’ve got lots of talent. I think (Erik) Karlsson is obviously one of the best offensive defensemen in the league. He will make you pay if you’re not doing a good job of making it harder on him. (Kyle) Turris has developed into a real first-line center on a really good hockey team. So we got great respect for them."

Turris has five goals and five assists in nine games while Karlsson has nine assists.

Blashill isn't assigning any more importance to this home-and-home series than any other games.

"I think the urgency level should be the same every game throughout the year," Blashill said. "It doesn’t matter if it’s Game 1, or Game 82, the points are critical. I think we understand that. I’m sure Ottawa understands that, so it should be a heck of a hockey game. We got to really focus on us playing at our highest level and not worry about who we’re playing against."

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