DETROIT – Darren Helm will indeed get his first crack at playing in the top six tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Helm will center Daniel Alfredsson and Tomas Tatar.
“It’s a great opportunity, a huge challenge,” Helm said after the morning skate at Joe Louis Arena. “I’m not really going to focus on trying to play a like a second-line center, just play the way I do.”
And that’s what Wings coach Mike Babcock wants out of Helm.
“Just do what you do,” Babcock said. “Don’t do anything different. Provide speed, let those other guys make the plays and be at the net for them and play well without the puck. Just do what you normally do.”
Helm has never played a full game in the top six, just a shift here and there.
“I don’t know how it’s going to pan out,” Helm said.
At practice Friday, Babcock said there was no chance Helm, who’ll be playing in just his fourth game of the year, would center the second line mainly because of all the time he had missed over the last two seasons.
Prior to his season debut last Saturday, Helm had logged just 15:35 of ice time over two games in the last 19 months.
Helm knows that he has to do, watch his shift lengths.
“I don’t need a minute-long shift, the first one will kill me for the rest of the game,” Helm said. “It’ll be fun if I get to play with those guys, they’re good players, anyone I play with I feel is a good player. It’s a different opportunity for sure.
“Each game I’m starting to fit in a little bit, get a little more comfortable with everything,” Helm continued. “I think I still got a little ways to go.
The injuries to Stephen Weiss (groin) and Johan Franzen (upper body), along with the Wings getting only scoring from their top line made the shuffling on line necessary.
Babcock is trying to find two other skaters to play alongside Alfredsson, who’s third on the team in scoring with three goals and 10 assists.
Franzen, Weiss and Daniel Cleary have combined to score five goals through 17 games.
“We had to do something,” Babcock said of his second line. “And let’s face it, that line hasn’t been any good anyways, so it was time for a change.”
Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Bertuzzi have 20 goals between them.
Entering training camp, the plan was for Weiss to center Alfredsson and Franzen.
However, injuries at camp didn’t allow that line to form any chemistry.
“I’ll just watch (Helm),” Babcock said. “The first game he was good. He played very few minutes, 30 second shifts. The second game in Winnipeg, he fit right in with the rest of us, because he was no good. Last game, he started on the fourth line and I ended up playing him on the third because I thought he was playing better.”