Datsyuk returns to lineup; Howard to start Tuesday; Helm yet to step on ice

DETROIT – Quick update from Wings practice before they head out for a two-game road trip in Florida, beginning Tuesday night against the Panthers.

Pavel Datsyuk will return to the lineup after missing the last seven games with a concussion.

“I feel OK,” Datsyuk said. “Out of shape, but I feel OK.”

Datsyuk will play on a line with Todd Bertuzzi and Johan Franzen.

“I can do lots of stuff in practice but in games it’s different level,” Datsyuk said. “We’ll see tomorrow.”

Jimmy Howard will be back between the pipes after sitting and watching the last two games.

“I was really surprised,” Howard said when asked if he was surprised he didn’t start Saturday night against Florida. “We’re all competitors in here, we all want to play, we all want to be out there. I understand (coach Mike Babcock’s) decision. I have to respect his decision, but at the same time I don’t have to like it. I just have to continue working hard and keep getting better every day.”

Howard is 6-8-6 this season with a 2.70 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage.

“To be honest I don’t think I played any different than I did against the (New York) Islanders than I did against Philadelphia,” Howard said. “It’s just that the puck went in. I’m not going to change anything else. I’ve been very successful and I’ve come a long way with my game. I’m not just all of a sudden going to reinvent the wheel.”

Darren Helm still has yet to skate since injuring his shoulder last Wednesday against Philadelphia.

“I think there’s a chance I can make it out on the ice,” Helm said. “I’ll take that. The sun and heat are definitely a factor as well.”

Helm has a sprain or strain to his left shoulder.

He’ll need a week or week and a half of practices before he’s ready to play again.

“I’m optimistic I won’t be out that long,” Helm said. “I’ve made head way. The first couple of days were pretty bad. The last two have been pretty good. I’m hoping it continues in the same direction and I’ll get back sooner rather than later.”

Helm has been hot since returning to the lineup, with seven goals and three assists in 15 games.

“It’s not ideal,” Helm said. “It’s just the way it is. I’ve learned to deal with these a little bit better than I have in the past. It’s still never fun to be out, sitting watching. I want to play and that’s the bottom line.”

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