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Notes: Helm excited to play in front of family, friends in Winnipeg

Wings focused on staying out of box; Green set to return to lineup

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

WINNIPEG -- The Red Wings don't play in Winnipeg very often but when they do, it's an opportunity for forward Darren Helm to get close to home.

Helm, 31, was born in St. Andrews, Manitoba, about 45 minutes away from Winnipeg.

"There's a few tickets that were requested. I'm happy to be here playing in front of some family and friends," Helm said. "I think they're excited. I don't know if they're more excited or not. I think I'm pretty excited, just warmups, they come down to the glass, my parents, my brother, his kid, they're banging on the glass. It's pretty exciting for all of us. Unfortunately, it's only once a year."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Playing in Helmer���s hometown tonight. #WPGvsDET #LGRW

The Wings arrived in Winnipeg late Thursday afternoon so Helm was able to get together with some of his friends who live in the area.

"Just buddies of mine, couple guys in my wedding party and their wives," Helm said. "It was nice treat to get over there and forget about hockey for a little bit and enjoy some good time with my friends.

"It was a home-cooked meal, it was delicious."

Helm said he was a kid when the Jets decamped for sunnier climes in Arizona and became the Phoenix Coyotes.

He's not surprised at the passion the Winnipeg fans have for their new Jets, who left Atlanta before the 2011-12 season.

"No, not at all. You can see they were upset when they left, the fans were upset, they were talking about getting a team for years and years," Helm said. "Just hearing from my friends and family still here they were buzzing for a few years after they came back. They were dying for a team, really happy that they got one. I think it's a good spot for them."

Of course it's not difficult to get excited about a team that is currently second in the Central Division with 56 points in 43 games.

That makes it a little easier for Helm, who did not have to pay for as many tickets as he might otherwise have done.

"I got some family that are ticket holders, so I don't have to worry about those ones," Helm said. "I'll see them after the game. There's probably a dozen or so that will be coming -- my parents, brother, cousins and some other friends."

STAY OUT OF THE BOX: The Jets are an excellent team to begin with but they're even more lethal when they have the man-advantage.

The Jets are currently second in the league on the power play at 28.6 percent, but they're first at home, converting on 38.2 percent of their chances.

"They have great pieces that they've put in great spots and I think they've developed excellent chemistry over the last number of years," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "They're similar to Washington, where the pieces they have in each spot, there's just so many threats. When there's that many threats, you can say, 'Take this guy away,' like a (Patrik) Laine, who's similar to (Alex) Ovechkin. Well, then they have other threats. Last time we played them, (Mark) Scheifele had a number of shots in the slot that if you give those up on a regular basis they're going to score on you a lot, so you can't do that.

"Obviously, (Dustin) Byfuglien out takes away one big element, but (Jacob) Trouba is real good up top as a right shot, too. They just present a number of challenges, so you have to make sure, one, you don't take tons of penalties and, two, you win the face-off and you do a real good job on your PK forecheck so you're not spending lots of time in your end. If they spend tons of time in your end it'll eventually find its way to the net because of the number of weapons they have."

Blake Wheeler leads the Jets with 21 power-play points, all assists; Byfuglien, who is out with a lower-body injury, has 16, tied with Scheifele.

Laine leads with 11 power-play goals. Kyle Connor is second with seven power-play goals among his 11 power-play points.

"I think they move the puck well," defenseman Mike Green said. "They've got a lot of shooters. There's not just one that they focus on. Obviously there's Laine, but you've also got Scheifele there, Wheeler can shoot, they all can shoot. The guys from the point can shoot. We just have to make that we follow the game plan of what we discussed and if we do that we should do a good job."

The Jets are 15-6-2 at BellMTS Place and are 47-13-4 there the last two seasons, making it the most challenging place for opponents.

"In a building like this momentum is critical, that you don't allow tons of momentum to build against you," Blashill said. "You turn a puck over in your own zone, that's going to create momentum for them. The next puck has to be out, even if you ice it, it has to be out. You can't spend multiple minutes in your end because you can just feel the momentum build off that. When they score, we got to answer with great shifts. You got to make sure we're not giving away any easy chances, we got to make sure we get the puck out of our zone and we got to make sure from the next-shift mentality, if bad things happen our next shifts are real good."

Helm said starting on time is critical for the Wings to have success.

"You come out early, try to get that good first 10 minutes," Helm said. "If we can quiet the crowd early, that will help. Play simple in the D-zone, get the pucks in deep and try to grind, get some grind minutes on their D. If we can that do early, maybe it'll set the pace for the game."

GREEN BACK: As he indicated after Thursday's practice in Detroit, Green is ready to return to the lineup after missing the last 13 games with a foot injury.

"Mike Green is on track," Blashill said. "He skated this morning, so right now the plan is he would be in, but you never know what happens after."

Green participated in the team's optional morning skate and said he was ready.

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Green looking to get back in action tonight. #WPGvsDET #LGRW

"It feels like a long time off," Green said. "I did everything I possibly could. Hopefully tonight I feel prepared."

Before getting injured, Green led the team in ice time but whether he is ready for that is yet to be determined.

"We'll just see how it goes," Green said. "However they want to utilize me, I'll be ready."

The Wings are thrilled to get Green back in the lineup, considering they are 3-14-5 without him this season.

"It's going to be huge," Helm said. "He's a pretty special player. He's skilled, poised with the puck, lots of experience. I think that'll be a big boost for the team and I think he'll be playing well."

The Wings are hoping that Green can provide a boost for the power play, which is currently 21st in the league at 17.1 percent.

"The one thing I'd say is I think the defensemen that have been on the power play have done a good job, so I don't know that it's been necessarily that's been the glaring weakness of it," Blashill said. "But certainly having Mike back, he does an excellent job getting the puck out of your end 5-on-5, does an excellent job of adding offense on the rush, can put the other team on their heels, adding offense from the offensive blue line, so when you add that type of offense, it really helps you defensively because you have the puck way more. And then obviously, it can help on the power play."

NO LARKIN IN SAN JOSE: Goaltender Jimmy Howard will be the lone Wings representative for the All-Star Game in San Jose Jan. 25-26.

Dylan Larkin was among the candidates for the Last Men In fan vote-in campaign but Buffalo's Jeff Skinner was the winner among Atlantic Division players.

Tweet from @NHL: YOUR VOTES HAVE BEEN COUNTED!Congratulations to the @adidashockey 2019 #NHLAllStar Last Men In! 👏

Skinner is tied with Toronto's John Tavares in goals with 29, second to Washington's Ovechkin, who has 32.

Skinner has one more point than Larkin's 41.

Fans voted in Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang for the Metropolitan Division, Colorado Avalanche forward Gabriel Landeskog for the Central Division and Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl for the Pacific Division.

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