DETROIT – Quick update from the Wings’ morning skate at Joe Louis Arena before tonight’s game against the St. Louis Blues.
Darren Helm returns to the lineup after missing the last seven games with a groin injury.
“It feels good,” Helm said after the skate. “It feels fine. I’ve felt good the last couple of days. I’ve skated hard, no problems so tonight’s the next test.”
Helm was a last minute scratch prior to the Winter Classic due to the groin injury.
“I’m just going to try and do what I did last time and the time before that, just play my game,” Helm said. “There’s nothing special I need to do, just make sure I’m taking short shifts. I’m going to be a little rusty out there so I can’t be doing too much.”
Helm has missed 18 of the past 19 games due to injury. Part of the time out it was due to a left shoulder injury.
“He hasn’t played in a long time,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I don’t know if it’s going to take him some time or not. When he’s going he’s a real impactful player for us. I don’t know how many minutes he can handle tonight but it’s good to have him back.”
Helm has been hot offensively with seven goals and four assists in 16 games.
He’s not stranger to being injured.
Helm returned to the lineup on Nov. 2 after playing in just two games over the last 19 months.
He had missed 89 of the Wings’ last 91 games, last playing on Jan. 25.
“I’m a veteran of being injured,” Helm said. “The first thing I tell myself is there is nothing I could do about it. You just try to do what you can to get better and stay positive.
Including playoffs, since he was hurt late in the 2011-12 season, Helm has played in just 19 of Detroit’s last 125 games.
“I’m mentally fine,” Helm continued. “There is always one or two bad days, but I’ve done this enough that they were too stressful on me. I’ve done it before. It’s just a grind to get back, you’re happy now and you don’t have to worry about it anymore.
To begin the season, Helm was sidelined with a back problem and then his groin became an issue.
“It’s a hard league, it’s hard to come back and it takes players a long time sometimes,” Babcock said. “He was an impactful player for us last time he was back. It was our best run of the season, we were the healthiest we’ve been and we got on a roll. We could use goals. We don’t score. That’s normally not what he’s about but he scored a bit this season and he can help us.”
Helm will replaced Cory Emmerton in the lineup.
Emmerton injured his right pinky in the second period of Saturday’s 3-2 shootout win over the Los Angeles Kings.
“It happened a penalty kill,” Emmerton said. “We were just trying to clear it and it hit me. I played the rest of the game, but it was sore.”
Emmerton was going to have the finger examined more.
“We took pictures and stuff,” Emmerton said. “Right now it’s not very good. It’s my top hand on the stick so that’s hard. I practiced today, went through everything. It was sore. If I needed to play I would be able to figure something out.”
Jonathan Ericsson is expected to return to the lineup Wednesday from fractured ribs.
“I did some hitting with (Johan) Franzen the other day just to test it,” Ericsson said. “I was sore the day after, but I needed to test it. I did more battling today and we’ll see how it feels during the day.”
Ericsson will wear something to protect his ribs during games.
Of the other injured players, Franzen (concussion) and Jonas Gustavsson (groin) were the only one to practice. Daniel Alfredsson (back spasms), Pavel Datsyuk (lower-body) and Joakim Andersson (lower-body) did not.
Alfredsson did say he has been able to ramp up the rehab and exercises in the gym, which he feels is very encouraging.
“I had back issues before but this was a little bit different,” Alfredsson said. “When the team is doing well, it’s easier (to sit out). I think they’ve been playing extremely hard. Goals have been tough to come by, but they’ve been in all the games.
“We have quite a few guys watching in the locker room, it was an emotional roller coaster the last game,” Alfredsson continued. “The guys are really fighting for each other, it’s great to see.”