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Helm returns to the ice with Wings

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Gustav Nyquist hopes to improve on his 2011-12 season statistics and join the Wings' roster as a full-time player in the NHL this season. (Photo by Bill Roose/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT – Three more familiar faces returned to Joe Louis Arena on Tuesday to participate in the Red Wings’ informal workouts organized by the players this week.

Goalie Jimmy Howard and forwards Darren Helm and Gustav Nyquist rejoined the majority of their teammates on the JLA ice for the first time this month. The only Wings not to report for the player workouts have been center Pavel Datsyuk and defenseman Kyle Quincey.

Prior to Tuesday, Helm hadn’t skated with the Wings since he suffered a severe laceration to the inside of his right forearm during the first period of Game 1 of last spring’s Western Conference quarterfinal against the Predators. The cut required emergency surgery that evening in Nashville.

“It feels good. Feels good shooting, passing, everything feels fine,” Helm said. “My doctors have told me it's on track. We got past that troubled stage a long time ago. It's been good.”

With Helm near 100 percent, the other adjustment for him this season is the addition of veteran forward Jordin Tootoo, an NHL agitator, whom Helm knows quite well. The two forwards often workout together, along with other NHL players during the off-season in Manitoba.

“I saw him a couple of times in the summer and talked to him a little bit. We get a long well,” said Helm, of Tootoo. “Whenever we played in Nashville we'd say ‘Hi’ to each other in the hallway. We get along real well. He's a good guy. Glad to sit beside him and have him on the team.”

The hope is that Tootoo’s abrasive style will rub off on whomever he’s paired with this season, thus giving the Wings an element to their bottom-six that they’ve sorely missed over the last few seasons.

“He's a big presence on the ice. He's physical,” Helm said. “I think a lot of people don't see the skill aspect of him. He can score, he can produce. When he's on the forecheck, it does get defensemen a little worried when he's coming crashing, it causes turnovers and scoring chances. He's a nice addition to the team.”

Someone who hopes to make the team out of training camp is Nyquist. The 23-year-old rookie traveled home to Sweden over this summer, however, he maintained contact with the Wings’ strength and conditioning staff in an effort to build strength.

“I’ve worked a lot with (Pete Ranzetti) through the phone, email and Skype and stuff,” Nyquist said. “He’s helped me a lot over the summer. He has a great program for me and it’s been working out real well.

“I’ve been working-out hard and trying to gain weight and build some muscles, and working on my shot as well. Hopefully, that will be good once the season starts.”

As a call-up on a few occasions last season, Nyquist was a pleasant addition to the Wings’ roster, producing a goal and six assists in 18 NHL games.

Should the NHL season not start on time, Nyquist’s plan is to report to Grand Rapids and play for the Griffins in the American Hockey League.

“I obviously want to play here,” he said. “Hopefully there will be a season, too, and if there is I’m aiming to grab a spot on the team and play as much as possible.”

As for Howard, despite having a 10-month-old son who is starting to gain some independence, the summer was rather uneventful.

“He wears me out,” Howard said, of his son, James IV. “Crawling and flying all over the place with the walker until he hits something."

But now it's September, and time to get back to work.

“Happy to be back here," Howard said, "see all the guys and get going.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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