– Darren Helm
played coy Wednesday morning when asked about his playing status for Game 1 of the Red Wings’ Western Conference quarterfinal series against the Predators tonight.
However, his coach was much more assertive.
“Helm's playing,” said coach Mike Babcock, following his team’s morning skate at Bridgestone Arena.
Since Helm sprained his left knee last month in San Jose, Babcock has stressed the importance of having a healthy Helm back in the lineup. Just his speed and grittiness along is usually enough to lend a spark to the bottom six forwards.
“Helmer just puts everybody in their right spot,” Babcock said. “We had great bottom six all year long and then we lost our people and we had no bottom six, no support scoring. I'm amazing when you put people in the right spot. I look at their team, see (Nick) Spaling and (Paul) Gaustad in the 3-4 holes, those are good matchups for us.”
Helm, who has missed the last 10 games, will center the third forward line sandwiched between forwards Danny Cleary
and Drew Miller
. But there is some concern regarding Cleary’s health and his nagging left knee issues.
Tuesday, prior to the Wings’ departure for Nashville, Cleary assessed the health of his aching knee at 50 percent. But again, Babcock was certain of the veteran’s playing status for Game 1.
“If he was 50 percent effectiveness he wouldn't be playing, so let's get that straight,” Babcock said. “So we sat down and talked about that specifically. I said I have lots of guys on deck ready to go. We need people that are ready to go. He assured me he's ready to go. So there's no issue there.”
According to Babcock, tonight’s definite lineup scratches will be rookie forwards Riley Sheahan
and Jan Mursak
, as well as veteran forward Chris Conner
, and defenseman Jakub Kindl
That leaves center Cory Emmerton
in limbo for Game 1, though he could be a last-minute replacement in the event that Cleary isn’t cleared to play.
“I still haven't made my final decision,” Babcock said. “We got one extra.”Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose