COMMENTARY | Welcome back, Darren.
Third-line center Darren Helm finally made his return to the Detroit Red Wings lineup after playing just one game in the past 19 months.
Helm didn't waste anytime getting back into the groove as he scored a goal on his first even-strength shift.
Daniel Alfredsson's pass was deflected by Daniel Cleary, which hopped over the stick of Edmonton Oilers defenseman Jeff Petry. Helm used his lightning speed to beat Petry to the puck and buried his first shot on goal against Richard Bachman to give the Red Wings an early 1-0 lead.
I'm not ready to declare Helm officially back to his old self quite yet, but it was obviously good to see Helm score early in the game, and even more impressive to see him score on a breakaway. We know Helm can beat almost anyone in the NHL in a race, but Helm's problem has been using that speed to get offensive production.
I can't tell you the number of times in the past when he would create a breakaway for himself, but shoot the puck right at the goalie's chest or fumble the puck trying to deke the goalie.
If Helm can improve his offensive abilities, he can be a lethal force on the third line and on penalty kills.
Speaking of killing penalties, he also spent some time in shorthanded opportunities against the Oilers. Helm only logged 10:10 of ice time, which was the lowest on the team even behind linemates Drew Miller and Mikael Samuelsson.
However, I like that coach Mike Babcock really kept Helm on a pitch count, so to speak. For the amount of setbacks and new injuries that have popped up for Helm in the past 19 months, there was no need to rush him back up to game speed as quickly as possible. Especially when the Red Wings were up 3-0 after two periods, it wasn't worth straining him.
During a two-game rehabilitation stint with the Grand Rapids Griffins, Helm had a sore groin during his first game, and played through it for the next game on Saturday.
The ultrasound showed no tear in his groin, and Helm was finally able to get into the Red Wings lineup about a week and a half later. It's a long season, and the Red Wings are doing the right thing by taking it easy with Helm.
One game isn't enough to judge whether or not Helm has finally gotten over his injuries, but seeing him on the ice going full speed and killing penalties is a good sign for him and the Red Wings.
Tom Mitsos is a Michigan native who covers the Detroit Red Wings for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He also co-hosts a Red Wings Podcast called The Octopod, and is a high school sports reporter at MLive Media Group. You can follow Tom on Twitter.
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