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Notes: Helm ready to return, Kronwall getting close

Brendan Smith practicing with team, aiming for return after All-Star break

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT - The Red Wings are about to add some more speed to their lineup.

Darren Helm, who has missed the last 28 games with a dislocated shoulder, is ready to return.

"Darren right now, we're shooting for tomorrow but we'll have a final determination after the pre-game skate," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said after Thursday's practice at Joe Louis Arena.

In order to make room on the roster to activate Helm, the Wings would move goaltender Jimmy Howard to long-term injured reserve and place Steve Ott on short-term injured reserve.

"Steve Ott, he hurt his shoulder in Toronto, played with it in Dallas, hurt it again there so he'll be out here for a little bit," Blashill said. "But he's able to skate through it."

Ott has been a scratch the last three games.

Helm was originally injured on Nov. 15 when Tampa Bay's Nikita Nesterov upended him.

"We'll ease Darren in the same way we eased Abby (Justin Abdelkader) in," Blashill said. "You can't just throw him right to the fire when they haven't played at all otherwise you leave them susceptible to injury. We'll end up easing him in, probably on that fourth line and then work his way in."

Helm was on a line with Luke Glendening and Abdelkader Thursday with Drew Miller rotating in.

Captain Henrik Zetterberg took a maintenance day and did not practice but is expected to play in Buffalo Friday.

KRONWALL, SMITH UPDATES: Defenseman Niklas Kronwall has been practicing with the team and is getting closer to returning.

"I feel good," Kronwall said. "Had another good skate. We'll have a chat with the medical team and then go from there."

Kronwall has missed the last seven games with a groin injury.

"I think everybody that's been out would like to be back in as soon as possible," Kronwall said. "I'll say one thing - it's a lot easier to sit out when you're winning. There's no doubt about that. But again I thought last game we didn't get the start we wanted but it was an emotional win. The crowd was amazing. Good comeback. It was a big win for us."

As for Brendan Smith, he skated with the team for the first time since re-injuring his knee Jan. 4 in Anaheim.

"I think I'm skating earlier than I was last time," Smith said. "I get to go on the trip, so that's nice, and then we'll see how it is. Every day it's getting better. That's where I want to go with the progression. I'm not much on timelines. As of right now I think we're thinking after probably the break. We'll see. Today I got to skate with the team for the first time. That was fun. I'll see if I can keep getting better."

Smith said he planned to stay in Detroit during the All-Star break to continue his rehabilitation.

SHOOTOUT FTW: Shootouts never used to be the Wings' thing but now they are a favorite.

In the last two seasons combined, the Wings were 6-15 in games decided by a shootout.

This season they are a perfect 6-0 in the shootout after Wednesday's 6-5 shootout victory over the Boston Bruins.

"We've got confidence because we've done a good job on them," Blashill said. "When you add (Thomas) Vanek, when you add (Frans) Nielsen, when you add AA (Andreas Athanasiou) as a full-time player, those are our first three shooters most nights. (Gustav) Nyquist has done a good job. He had a big one in St. Louis. But when you add those guys, they're really good in shootouts. And then I thought Petr (Mrazek) did a real good job in it as well."

Nielsen, who got the shootout winner, tied Radim Vrbata for most shootout goals in league history with 44 and broke a tie with T.J. Oshie for most game-deciding shootout goals with 19.

Vanek, who celebrated his 33rd birthday Thursday, is 4-for-4 in the shootout this season, the only player at 100 percent with at least four shots.

Vanek's four shootout goals give him a tie for the NHL lead with Florida's Vincent Trocheck, Edmonton's Mark Letestu, Florida's Aleksandr Barkov and Philadelphia's Jakub Voracek.

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