DETROIT – The Red Wings lost more than just two-points Wednesday night, they lost another key piece to the offense.
Darren Helm, who has been plagued with a plethora of injuries over the last two years, will miss this weekend’s games at New Jersey and home against Florida with a shoulder injury suffered late in Wednesday’s 6-3 loss to Philadelphia at Joe Louis Arena.
Helm did not accompany the team to New Jersey following Thursday’s practice. The veteran center was scheduled to have an MRI at the Detroit Medical Center.
“They’ll find out and let us know,” coach Mike Babcock said. “I just know he’s not coming on the trip.”
Zetterberg is expected to be out for at least two weeks, but the Wings hope to get Datsyuk back soon. He’s missed six games since taking an elbow to the jaw against Ottawa on Nov. 23, but has looked good in the team’s last two practices.
“I haven’t talked to Pav since he skated, he skated in practice with us today there obviously that’s a good sign,” Babcock said. “I can see just by him dripping sweat there that obviously he worked here today so we’ll see when he’s ready.”
Wednesday was the first time since the season finale of the 2005-06 season that the Wings played without both Datsyuk and Zetterberg.
Todd Bertuzzi, who has missed six straight games with an undisclosed upper body injury, is set to return Friday against the Devils. In Thursday’s practice, the veteran forward worked on the top line with Johan Franzen in the middle and Gustav Nyquist on the left wing. But Babcock isn’t sure that’s how the Wings will lineup on Friday.
“That’s what I did in practice today, to be honest with you I’m not totally certain what I’m going to do with the lineup,” Babcock said. “Obviously we got three centermen that are not available suddenly so that changes the dynamic of your team a little bit so we’ll figure it out. We just gotta get a lineup set so we can go in and find a way to win a game.”
Since his return in early November, Helm has been one of the Red Wings’ most productive contributors, producing seven goals, including two game-winners, and 10 points in 15 games.
Without Datsyuk and Helm, the Red Wings practiced Thursday with Franzen, Stephen Weiss, Joakim Andersson and Cory Emmerton down the middle. As for Datsyuk, who wasn’t sure if he was making the trip to New Jersey, he’s taking his possible return to the lineup one step at a time.
“I live today, we’ll see what happens tomorrow, you never know,” he said.
BETWEEN THE PIPES: Jonas Gustavsson will get his ninth start of the season when the Red Wings travel to New Jersey Friday night for their first of three meetings this season.
The 29-year-old backup has played very well for the Red Wings while giving Jimmy Howard an occasional rest, especially on back to back games.
Gustavsson is 7-0-1 with a 2.16 goals-against average and .929 save percentage.
“He’s been real good for us,” Babcock said. “He’s found a way to get hit by pucks and we’ve found a way to win. Now I don’t know if it’s because we’ve relaxed more on the road or I don’t know the answer to those questions. I just know we’re in the winning business, we need points.”
In six career games against the Devils, Gustavsson has posted a 3-1-1 record. Now that he’s playing more regularly, he has found a groove that has allowed him to push Howard a little bit for additional playing time.
“That’s my goal, to try to push him and he’s definitely pushing me,” Gustavsson said. “I know I got to play real well to even be considered playing in net. I’m just trying to do my part as any other guy on the team, trying to do as good as I can and try to push the other guys. It’s been working great so far.”
CIRCLE DOMINANCE: Joakim Andersson is quickly becoming one of the best centerman in the league at winning draws. The 24-year-old Swede has won 54.9 percent of his face-offs this season, including a remarkable 16-of-17 against the Flyers on Wednesday.
Andersson dominated Brayden Schenn in the circle, winning all 10 face-offs against the Flyers’ center.
“Yeah, I had Schenn from the start, and I guess kept winning against him,” Andersson said. “I took some draws against some other guys too, but some nights you get great help from your wingers and defense around you. Some nights the other team is quicker to the puck, but that’s a big thing too. So (Wednesday) I got help in a lot of draws from my teammates.”
Andersson’s 54.9 percent success rate (195-of-355) ranks him No. 8 among league centermen who have taken the same number of draws or more. He gives a lot of credit to the chemistry built with his wingers Drew Miller and Tomas Tatar.
“I like our line, I mean, it’s like seven or eight games in a row where we’ve played together and you get to learn about each other,” Andersson said. “I played a lot with Tatar both here and in Grand Rapids, so I know what he’s all about. I know how to help him out to be a good player and use his skill so it can help me out too. Me and Miller have been playing a lot together on the penalty kill this year. We started playing real well together 5-on-5 because he’s a good skater and he’s strong on the puck and the cycle and the forecheck. I like our line.”
HBO ON THE GO: Day 2 of filming the HBO behind-the-scenes documentary took place Thursday at practice. Babcock, Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson were the main focus as each wore wireless microphones for the production crew, who went around the locker room to introduce themselves to the players following practice.
“It’s going to be an adjustment for sure,” defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said. “As soon as there are cameras around this locker room everyone gets quiet and not themselves anymore, so I think it’s going to take a few days until everyone is adjusted and can feel comfortable around the cameras.
“But we have no choice and hopefully it’s going to be fun. The previous productions that they’ve made have been really cool to watch, so I have a lot of friends looking forward to watching us on TV. Hopefully it will turn out good.”
The film crews traveled with the Red Wings to New Jersey. In all, they will shoot footage from 13 Wings' games, while featuring the players and their personalities on and off the ice. They plan to visit Alfredsson and his family at their Oakland County home on Sunday.
The first episode of “24/7 Red Wings/Maple Leafs: Road to the Winter Classic” can be seen next Saturday, Dec. 14 at 10 p.m. EST on HBO.
WINS MATTER: According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Wednesday marked just the third time since the 2002-03 season – and first time since April 18, 2006 – the Red Wings played a game without both Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Detroit has compiled the most wins (regular season and playoffs) of any NHL team since the last time both players were out of the lineup.
MOST WINS SINCE APRIL 18, 2006 (REGULAR SEASON + PLAYOFFS)
1. Detroit Red Wings: 395
2. Pittsburgh Penguins: 392
3. San Jose Sharks: 384
t-4. Chicago Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks: 361
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose
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