By Pat Evans -
GRAND RAPIDS - In his first game in quite a while, Darren Helm looked a little rusty in his Grand Rapids rehab stint.
Helm has missed the time because of back and groin injuries.
Aside from two short-handed breakaways, Helm was far from the player fans recognize in a 3-2 home-opening loss to Milwaukee.
In those breakaways, Helm didn’t take advantage of his opportunities.
“The first one, I had a feeling my stick was broken,” Helm said. “Second one, I just didn’t think I had as much time as I did in the first one.”
There were flashes of the speed he is known for, but he also stumbled more than a few times, likely due to his fatigue.
“I kinda lost the edge out there,” he said. “The speed of the game is a lot faster than I remember. Probably more (minutes) than I could handle. I was sucking wind pretty hard there at times.”
He took a hard hit against the boards in front of the Griffins bench in the second period and shanked a one-timer in the third.
At first, he admitted he was glad to be back on the ice, he even went as far to describe it as fun. But he also mentioned some some “aches.”
“A little sore, nothing I need to be worried about,” Helm said. “All in all, feels pretty good.”
Helm’s still likely a long way from where the Red Wings need him to be. He’s expected to be in the lineup Oct. 26, likely swapping spots with Luke Glendening and anchoring the third or fourth line.
But that didn’t stop Red Wings general manager Ken Holland from telling USA Today he’s not quite ready for NHL play yet.
“He’s probably going to be 20 or 30 games from where we want him to be,” Holland told USA Today before Friday’s game. “This is the NHL. He will need to play some games. But he has been an important player for us, and he’s only 27. He brings some speed and other ingredients that makes us better. We have our fingers crossed that there are no more setbacks.”
Grand Rapids head coach Jeff Blashill said it wasn’t a bad outing considering the circumstances.
“I thought Helmer did a good job for playing for the first time in 18 months and that’s a long, long time,” Blashill said. “You can’t replicate that kind of bumping and grinding so you get tired fast.”