By Nick Barnowski –
TRAVERSE CITY – The Detroit Red Wings’ annual development camp began today in Traverse City, but for perhaps the first time, the focus wasn’t entirely on the prospects.
Red Wings forward Darren Helm, who missed all but one game this past season due to a back injury, is taking part in the camp, a major step in returning to full health.
Helm’s main goal for this week is to see if he has made any progress toward bouncing back from the back injury that has forced him to miss almost all of the 2012-13 season.
The speedy center took part in the day’s first skate at Centre Ice Arena and felt positive after spending 50 minutes on the ice.
“It was a good first day,” Helm said. “I haven’t skated in two months and I think it was a good start.”
The plan is for him to skate at each of the camp’s practices, which run from today until July 15. He will not participate in Friday’s scrimmage.
“Nothing really bothered me,” he said. “I’m pretty happy after the way things worked today. I was nervous to get out there and see how I was going to do.”
Despite the talk of progress, Red Wings coaches will be taking it easy as far as Helm’s role on the ice. The six-year NHL veteran understands that going all out won’t solve anything.
“I didn’t put my head down or really go after it,” he said. “I just wanted to give it a good test today, to go at 70 or 80 percent. The plan for the rest of the week is to slowly work that up and the main goal is to get out and feel great and go home.”
It was a large step forward for Helm, who has been concentrating on rehabbing off the ice. After the playoffs ended when Detroit was eliminated by Chicago, he spent a week and a half at home, which he called a “good mental reset.” Injuries, notably this one and the torn tendons in his wrist he suffered from during the 2012 playoffs, have been sources of frustration for Helm, but he is trying to stay optimistic.
“It gives me confidence going throughout my summer and my training,” Helm said. “It gives me confidence to start skating more, pushing harder, working out with heavier weights, and that’s what I wanted to do when I came down here, see if I can take that next step.”
Helm will evaluate himself as the week progresses, but as of now, he expects to be on track to play at the beginning of the 2013-14 season.
“That’s the goal,” he said. “There hasn’t really been anything since the playoffs that have made me think otherwise.”