MONTREAL – Two thirds of the Red Wings’ fourth line will make their season debut tonight against the undefeated Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre.
Darren Helm and Joakim Andersson will be expected to anchor a grind line with forward Drew Miller.
The lineup moves should give the Wings – who are playing the second night of a back-to-back set for the second straight weekend – an energized line with fresh legs up front.
Helm has been out since Sept. 18 when he suffered a separated shoulder and a concussion in a horrific head-on collision with another player on the first day of training camp in Traverse City.
After a few days without experiencing concussion-like symptoms, Helm said he’s more than ready to get back at it tonight.
“Yesterday was a good day and we were just playing it by ear,” Helm said, “see how I feel on whether I would be good today. I felt good last night. Felt good just now in the morning skate, so next step is to go on to the ice at game time and see how it goes.”
With Helm and Andersson in the lineup that means forwards Landon Ferraro and Tomas Jurco will be scratched tonight.
Coach Jeff Blashill spoke to the media Saturday morning as the Wings finished a sparsely attended optional skate at Bell Centre. The Wings’ coach wanted to talk to Helm before committing to the lineup change.
“We’re hoping that Helmer will be able to play tonight,” Blashill said. “We hope that he can go out there and play without reservation. “
Moments later, Helm received his answer.
“We just talked about it five minutes ago,” Helm said. “He’s going to start me with Millsie and Andy and just see how things go, get my legs moving and get into the game slowly. Get into the season slowly and pick up the pace.”
Helm thought he would make his season debut last Tuesday against Tampa Bay. He even skated in line rushes the day before at practice. However, he had some setbacks in the recovery process, which he later learned from his neurologist might not be related to his concussion.
“I don’t know what it is exactly,” Helm said. “We kind of came to the conclusion that it wasn’t really concussion related that was causing some of the issues. It was more nerves, so that’s a positive. Now we go on the ice tonight and see how it is.”
Saddled with a litany of bad injuries in the past few season, Helm entered last month’s training camp in perhaps the best physical shape of his career.
“I would have liked to have that summer training go into the season,” he said, “but I’m just as excited to start now and get back on track.”
Andersson has been a healthy scratch in the Wings’ first four games. He had three goals and eight points in 68 games in a similar fourth-line role last season.
The Wings, who are have struggled to win face-offs, can use Andersson’s skills in the circle. The Swedish center has won 50,2 percent of the career draws he’s taken.
Only Winnipeg (44.9%) has lost a higher percentage of face-offs than the Red Wings (46%).