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Rookie Helm makes NHL debut in place of hobbled Kris Draper

BY GEORGE SIPPLE
DETROIT FREE PRESS

Darren Helm made his NHL debut Thursday night, replacing Kris Draper in the Red Wings' lineup against Dallas.

Draper has a groin injury and expects to miss at least the next two games as well. The Wings host Nashville on Saturday, then play Sunday at Columbus.

"I tried to skate yesterday, and it didn't seem to loosen up for me," Draper said. "So they sent me to go get an ultrasound, and I guess they found a small tear."

Draper said he originally injured the groin during a trip to western Canada in late February. He didn't miss any games and said the groin didn't bother him until the third period of Tuesday's game against Chicago.

"If I were to continue to play, it could gradually get worse," Draper said. "Right now I have time to rest and let it heal."

Draper doesn't want a repeat of last season, when he was injured in the playoffs and had to have off-season surgery for a sports hernia. Trainer Piet Van Zant suggested he rest before the playoffs.

"Right now I've got an opportunity to take care of it," Draper said. "We're going to be smart about it. From the sounds of it, take the next three games (off) and next week try to skate again and see how it is.

"That's the one thing Piet keeps saying. Everything I went through in the playoffs, you don't want to go through again. So, we got some time right now. I'm going to take advantage of that."

Draper said he made sure to welcome Helm, a speedy 21-year-old center, to the team Thursday morning.

"One day he's going to take my job," Draper said. "I'm just glad I signed that three-year deal.

"He's a great skater. Anytime you can skate, you give yourself an opportunity to play in this league."

General manager Ken Holland said he went to Grand Rapids on Wednesday night with the intent of calling up Helm and saw the first-year pro have his best game -- two goals and two assists in a 7-1 victory over the Toronto Marlies.

"Great speed, plays with a lot of energy and a lot of passion. Hounds the puck," Holland said of Helm, whom he described as "a lot like Kris Draper." "I think he's got a similar character, a real good pro, really focused. Now, let's let him develop."

Helm saw seven minutes of ice time in 10 shifts.

"As the game progressed, I thought I was getting more confident," said Helm. "It was pretty much exactly what I thought it was going to be: a lot faster, a lot crisper puck movement. Next time I'll be a little more prepared for that, and hopefully I'll do a little bit better."

Babcock was pleased with Helm's effort.

"There's something special -- your first NHL game," Babcock said. "He's going to be an NHL player. It's just a matter of time. He's gotta get stronger and thicker. When he does that, he's got the tools to play."

Helm, selected in the fifth round of the 2005 NHL draft by the Wings, has 11 goals and 13 assists in 59 games in his first season with the Griffins.


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