DETROIT – The Red Wings got some good news on the injury front Monday.
It appears that forwards Darren Helm (groin) and Gustav Nyquist (sore knee) will be ready to play in the Red Wings’ final home exhibition game Wednesday against Pittsburgh.
Helm, who hasn’t played since suffering a broken nose and re-aggravating the tender groin in the preseason opener last Monday, said he feels much better.
“I was on the ice today and I was able to work out, do a few things during this time without being on the ice,” Helm said. “I don’t think I’ll, its not like I’ll get back and be completely out. I’ll take a couple days and I’ll be back out.”
For Helm, it’s the second time in his career that he has broken his nose, though he said this time was a lot worse.
“This is the first time they have had to readjust it and that was not fun at all,” said Helm whose left eye is still red, the result of broken blood vessels when he was struck in the face with Beau Bennett’s stick.
Coach Mike Babcock was more caution in predicting the likelihood of seeing Helm in the Red Wings’ lineup against the Penguins at Joe Louis Arena.
“Well, I don’t know about that,” Babcock said. “Helmer felt better today. He got some work done and he felt better, so we’ll see.”
Nyquist and the Red Wings definitely dodged an injury that could have been far worse for the young, play-making forward. The Wings are already without Pavel Datsyuk (right shoulder), defenseman Ryan Sproul (left shoulder) and top prospect Anthony Mantha (fractured tibia).
Late in the third period of Saturday’s 3-1 home loss to Boston, Nyquist was involved in a knee-on-knee collision with Bruins 6-foot-5 defenseman Dougie Hamilton. Nyquist made his way to the Wings’ team bench and immediately headed for the locker room.
“The puck was in between Hamilton’s skates,” Nyquist said. “I was coming with speed and trying to kick the puck with me and I kinda hit his knee instead of the puck.”
Nyquist is not in tonight’s lineup against Toronto. He is day to day and hoping to play in Wednesday’s home preseason finale.
“It’s scary when it happens to your knee,” he said. “But it feels better today and it’s improved and that’s a good sign.”
Nyquist and Datsyuk were injured late in preseason games. But Nyquist isn’t reading anything into the timing of their injuries.
“I think you can get hurt at anytime during the game and this just happened to be at the end of the game,” he said. “It’s just coincidence, injuries can happen all the way through the game.”
AGAINST THE MAPLE LEAFS: The Red Wings host Toronto tonight at Joe Louis Arena in the first of two preseason meetings between the Original Six franchises. The Red Wings will travel to Toronto on Friday before concluding the exhibition season with a final tune up against the Bruins at TD Gardens.
Third-string goalie Petr Mrazek will get the start tonight. He is scheduled to play the first and second periods. Tom McCollum is expected to play in the third.
The line combinations during today’s morning skate were: Tomas Tatar-Riley Sheahan-Tomas Jurco; Drew Miller-Joakim Andersson-Daniel Cleary; Kevin Porter-Stephen Weiss-Mitch Callahan; and Justin Abdelkader-Tomas Nosek-Andrej Nestrasil.
Tatar is the Wings’ leading scorer among the group that will skate tonight. He has two goals in two games, while Abdelkader (two assists), Nestrasil (goal, assist) and Nosek (goal, assist) all have two points each.
BABCOCK’S ASSESSMENT: With just 10 days remaining before the puck drops on the 2014-15 NHL season, Babcock presented sort of his state of the team appraisal this morning.
“It’s interesting to me that we’re getting better again now, but we’re not getting better with old guys, we’re getting better with young guys,” Babcock said. “Last year was a breakthrough year for us. When you’re on the outside looking in you might not see it, but to me, since ’09 we’ve been a good team. We’re a Cup team, you could say the whole league is a Cup team because it’s so tight. But there are four or five teams that you look at – Chicago, L.A., for sure, Pittsburgh with their big guys, people say Boston – they’re Cup contenders. Now, the rest of us are fighting to be in that pool.
“We’ve crawled into the playoffs two years in a row. Last year we crawled in with kids though, the year before we did it with unbelievable goaltending down the stretch. I like the direction that we’re going. The issue is always, to win the Cup you need some stars, and we have stars, but they have to be healthy though. But we eventually have to have guys to replace those stars because they are 35 and 34 (years old).”