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Samuelsson is hopeful for opener

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Center - DET
GOALS: 9 | ASST: 17 | PTS: 26

SOG: 124 | +/-: 5
DETROIT Mikael Samuelsson skated Thursday morning with the Red Wings for the first time since straining a groin muscle earlier in the week.

The veteran forward said he believes that he’ll be ready to play in Saturday’s season-opener in St. Louis, but an injury like his, he said, can flare up unexpectedly.

“It feels good. No feelings at all,” said Samuelsson, sounding optimistic. “Good first part of the day.”

The Red Wings will hold an evening practice Thursday at Joe Louis Arena beginning at 7 p.m., at which time Samuelsson hopes to still be pain-free.

With only five days to get ready for the short season, coach Mike Babcock said that any little bit of time that players miss can be a liability.

“Everybody is moving ahead (and) when you’re not going you’re getting left behind,” he said. “You’re not in game-shape, so you’ve got to get playing. There’s going to be some serious urgency. I mean, the Red-White game was a no-hitter and on purpose. We wanted contact but no hitting. St. Louis game isn’t going to be a no-hitter.”

The Red Wings expect to be without one of their big hitters, third line center Darren Helm, for at least the opener against the Blues. Helm, who pulled a muscle in his back, hasn’t skated since last week.

Clearly, Helm’s absence is a loss to the Wings, who miss his speed and puck-possession abilities.

“He brings that element,” said Kris Draper, special assistant to Ken Holland. “He's a very dangerous player, great on the PK and he does a lot of good things with this team on both ends of the rink.”

MACDONALD UPDATE: Goalie Joey MacDonald is till suffering from back pain that ended his season last March. He had a cortisone injection last week and he said that he feels “100 percent better than it was last year.”

MacDonald had skated during the lockout, but the pain returned in August. He said he hopes to begin skating on his own next week.

“A lot of it’s problems from when I had surgery in 2006,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a whole lot of disc problems it’s scar tissue and stuff like that you get broken up.”

The 32-year-old was an outstanding run at the time he was felled by a bulging disc. He won seven straight games while Jimmy Howard was out with a broken finger. MacDonald finished with an 8-5-1 record and a 2.16 goals-against average before mid-March when he was hurt in Anaheim.

“It’s frustrating, especially after a year like last year when everything went so well and timing was everything,” MacDonald said. “But hey, it’s no different than any other year for me. You come into camp and battle, battle, battle and if you’re not No. 1 you’re battling for No. 2. … You just keep battling and working hard and look at last year and look what happened. That’s a positive for now.”

COUNT DOWN: As for final preparations leading up to Saturday’s opener, Babcock said the only thing missing is the duplication that players get from playing a preseason schedule.

“With exhibition games you go over and over and over stuff, and you have a chance to do it,” he said. “When my kids were younger I’d go to soccer practice and they would have a throw-in drill or something, they’ve do it one time in soccer practice and they’d go to the next game and the coach would wonder why they couldn’t do it. Practice. Repetition is the key to learning, you have to go over and over and you have to do it right if you’re going to execute. … That’s the process that we’re in, it’s just short.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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