NASHVILLE -- The debate over whether the league should have suspended Shea Weber for his hit on Henrik Zetterberg was the talk of the day, but losing Darren Helm is a serious blow for the Detroit Red Wings.
The team announced Thursday morning that Helm had surgery to repair lacerated tendons in his right forearm. He is expected to be healthy by September but that doesn’t help the Red Wings against the Nashville Predators.
Helm battled back to return from a sprained knee earlier than expected and played only 3:08 before Alexander Radulov's skate accidentally cut him during a collision.
“It’s a little bit heartbreaking for him to have something like that happen,” Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “It’s a big loss. We’ve been without him for about a month now. He came back and played his first game and got hurt again. Just his speed and what he can do both ends of the ice for us will affect us.”
The Red Wings penalty kill was outstanding against the Predators' No. 1 ranked power play, killing off every penalty including 1:14 of a five-on-three. The Predators will no doubt make the adjustments teams make over the course of a playoff series to respond to Detroit’s penalty kill and Helm’s absence will certainly factor into those adjustments. It could mean even more of a burden on the penalty kill for Red Wings star forwards Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, who combined for more than six minutes of PK time in Game 1.
Rookie Gustav Nyquist will take Helm’s spot in the lineup and will likely skate on a third line with Dan Cleary and Justin Abdelkader. Nyquist had seven points in 18 games with the Red Wings during the regular season and has the offensive skill set to make an impact.
“He’s not afraid to hang on to the puck,” Lidstrom said. “Whether it’s making plays or hanging on to it and taking it to the net.”
Gill still sidelined
The Predators kept defenseman Hal Gill out of practice again on Thursday. Coach Barry Trotz said Gill remains day-to-day with his lower-body injury that has kept him out of practice with the team all week.
“He didn’t skate today. We’re doing that on purpose a little bit,” Trotz said. “If he feels better and he’s able to go, he’ll go.”
Trotz seemed pleased with the play of Jack Hillen, who replaced Gill in the lineup. Hillen played just 8:20, considerably less than Gill’s regular ice time.
“I thought Jack, when he was in there, did a really good job,” Trotz said. “Being in his first playoff game, I thought he was fine.”
It was Radulov’s skate that inadvertently cut Helm in Game 1, and you could tell he was upset about it on Thursday when he realized the severity of the injury.
“It’s awful,” he said after the Predators' practice. “I didn’t even know that [he was hurt]. I saw he wasn’t playing anymore.”
In his return to the NHL playoffs for the first time since 2008, Radulov played 15:23 and registered just one shot. For most of the game he was a non-factor, but Trotz is optimistic that will change.
“Rad is really competitive. The game is changing a little bit. It gets ramped up,” Trotz said. “There’s not going to be any freedom out there in the playoffs. You have to fight for space. Top players fight for space. Rad will do that.”