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Detroit Red Wings: Darren Helm Has Something to Prove This Season

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Detroit Red Wings: Is Darren Helm Finally Returning to His Old Self?
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Darren Helm, right, scored a goal in his first game since January 2013.

COMMENTARY | Darren Helm's absence from the Detroit Red Wings last season was apparent.

He doesn't have the offensive production that Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg have, but he's a speedy third-line center that can kill penalties and create plays.

Helm skated at the Red Wings Development Camp in Traverse City on Wednesday, July 10, the first time he has skated since May when the Red Wings were eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference semifinals.

Normally, the development camp is reserved for junior players or recent draftees to get a taste of professional hockey, but Helm is using the time to slowly progress toward playing in an NHL game again.

The youngsters are trying to prove they have what it takes to play at the next level, Helm has to prove he still can physically play hockey.

Helm said he is trying to take things easy and slowly progress toward being game ready, and that's exactly what he should do.

He's feeling optimistic about how the back is feeling thus far, but he felt optimistic numerous times last year only to have setback after setback.

This back injury kept him out of nearly every single game last year. There is no need to rush him back into the lineup only to have him strain his back yet again.

Helm has to think long term. He is only 26 and doesn't need to have a freak injury derail the rest of his career.

Too often you hear about how fans think players should play through the pain and be an asset to the team whenever they can.

In Helm's case, he doesn't need to risk it. He's had too many setbacks at this point and doesn't need to risk the long-term goal for a short-term gain.

This isn't a make or break year for Helm, mostly due to the fact the Red Wings have him locked up through the 2015-16 season. However, Helm has to know that he can't have another season like he did last year.

If he does, his stock will drop, and he'll make a good case as to why the the Red Wings shouldn't resign him after the 2015-16 season.

The Red Wings need Helm to stay healthy this season. He provides stability on the third line, kills penalties and his speed provides mismatches for the opposing team's third line.

Helm needs to prove to himself and to the Red Wings that he can still be a valuable asset.

Tom Mitsos is a Michigan native who covers the Detroit Red Wings for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He also is a high school sports reporter at MLive Media Group. You can follow Tom on Twitter.

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