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Post-Practice Update: Helm/Kronwall Close to Returning

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Reinforcements may be on the way, but is there a big rush to get them in the lineup?

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Detroit Red Wings at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

A day after completing an exciting and improbable comeback against the Boston Bruins, the Red Wings held practice at Joe Louis Arena in preparation for their game tomorrow against the Sabres.

Henrik Zetterberg wasn’t there, although his absence was due to a maintenance day, so no worries. Steve Ott took Zetterberg’s place in line rushes, and if that sentence doesn’t send shivers down your spine, then you’re probably related to Ott in some way. Petr Mrazek looks to be the starter in Buffalo, not a surprise given how sharp he was in relief of Jared Coreau last night.

The big news came later when Darren Helm made his triumphant return to practice, spending time on a line with Luke Glendening and Justin Abdelkader. While it doesn’t have a cool name like the OMG line, I think this trio should be called “The Extensions”, but I’m not sure that’s going to catch on like I would hope.

After practice, Jeff Blashill held court and indicated that Helm could be ready to go Friday, but that decision won’t be made until after pre-game warmups. For those paying attention, Helm’s return would require a roster spot to open up, and given that no one was placed on waivers today, the question of how the Wings would achieve this wasn’t immediately answered.

However, that blaring of trumpets you hear is Steve Ott to the rescue. Ott, who has been playing with a shoulder injury since the Centennial Classic, aggravated it against Dallas and has been unable to play. Should Helm return tomorrow night, Ott would be placed on IR, solving the Red Wings’ roster logjam like only a 4th line player on an expiring contract can.

Niklas Kronwall also appears close to returning, but right now it looks like that could happen Sunday against the Rangers. Once again, the Wings would be required to clear a roster spot, so all eyes will be on the waiver wire to see if Tomas Jurco is finally sent away since the team can’t seem to figure out what to do with him. Brendan Smith will be going with the team to Buffalo, but said that he’s not likely to return until after the All-Star break.

The Wings could be getting closer to full health in the next week or two, but after ripping off 3 wins in a row, it may not be a good idea to change a winning lineup. Helm’s insertion at the expense of Drew Miller makes sense, because Helm is a better player than Miller. Leaving the top 3 lines intact should be a no-brainer, especially the Tomas Vanek-Frans Nielsen-Andreas Athanasiou line, which has been red-hot since being formed. Where it gets trickier is when Kronwall returns, because he’ll likely take the place of Nick Jensen or Xavier Ouellet, while an informal poll of my house indicates that Jonathan Ericsson should get a night off to rest. Puck drop tomorrow night is at 7 PM ET.