– One day after the Stanley Cup champions returned from a surreal visit to the White House, the Red Wings lost superstar forward Henrik Zetterberg
to a strained groin.
The reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner left practice early Wednesday and didn’t participate in Thursday’s morning skate. The Red Wings host the Vancouver Canucks Thursday at 7:30 p.m. EDT at Joe Louis Arena.
In light of the injury, the Red Wings have called up 21-year-old center Darren Helm
from Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League.
“Helm is coming up,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We’ll mix some things up and get ready to go.”
Helm, who scored two goals with two assists in 18 postseason games with the Wings last spring, continued to impress the coaching staff in training camp. But making the final roster of a pretty load squad was a tall order.
“He has speed,” said Babcock of Helm, who has one assist in the Griffins’ lone game this season. “He’s tenacious. He works hard. He’s an NHL player. I didn’t want to scratch Z to see it happen, but the way I look at it is you go through a lot of these things.
“I always like you to not have injuries in the first 20 games. I think it’s in the first 20 that you get your confidence. That’s the way it goes, not you have to go out there and find a way to win a game.”
Helm, who was not at Thursday's morning skate, will start Thursday’s game on a line with Tomas Kopecky and Kirk Maltby.
The absence of Zetterberg will certainly cause a mix-up in the forward rotation against the Canucks, and likely Saturday when the Wings host the New York Rangers.
“There will be times during the season or in the playoffs when guys are playing with other guys, whether it’s because we’re not playing very well or injuries or whatever it may be,” Maltby said. “It’s going to be important that everyone has some familiarity with everyone, but if Hank’s not in, it forces (Babcock) to switch things up.”
The Wings will certainly miss Zetterberg’s offensive punch. In the first three games this season, he has a goal and two assists.
“When you look around, we have so many great players and some other player will have a chance to step-up and do the job,” Marian Hossa said. “We have a great group of guys and we’ll have to find a way to win without Hank.”
The last two seasons, Zetterberg has been plagued by lower back pain that has sidelined him for 26 regular-season games.
“Yesterday, he left the ice … very, very early in practice,” Babcock said. “He said he shot the puck and felt that he jammed himself and he felt some tightness. He left the ice and this morning when he came in he was sorer than yesterday. We thought it would be the opposite way, obviously not, so we always say with groins that it’s day-to-day. But what I find with groins is that they’re 10 days in the day-to-day process. So let’s say 10 days.
Zetterberg is the third Wings’ player to miss time with a groin injury. Pavel Datsyuk
missed much of the preseason and Darren McCarty started the regular-season on injury reserved.
“It’s like anything; someone has to carry the mail,” Babcock said. “Z’s been hurt before and Pav’s stepped up. Pav’s been hurt and Z’s stepped up. We have a different look of our team, and I’m still trying to figure it out. We’re going to play a hungry Vancouver team and they have real good goaltending … so it’s going to be a good test for our team.”