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Red Wings’ depth will continue to be tested with Helm out 6-8 weeks

Darren Helm’s injury is another in a long list of ailments for the 29-year-old, and the timeline for his return means Detroit needs to find some punch from their depth in a hurry.

The past three weeks have been incredibly trying for the Red Wings, and things aren’t getting any easier for Detroit as they’ve now lost oft-injured winger Darren Helm for at least six weeks.

Helm’s injury came Tuesday against the Lightning after a hip check from Tampa Bay rearguard Nikita Nesterov. As Helm entered the Lightning zone, Nesterov dropped his hip to make contact with Helm, who then flipped over top the Tampa Bay defender and wound up planting his upper body into the ice hard. A grimace immediately crossed Helm’s face, and it was evident from the outset that Helm was in serious pain:

It wasn’t until Wednesday afternoon, however, that it was announced that Helm won’t require surgery but is out at least six weeks, with the possibility that he could miss close to two months of action. Sadly, this is nothing new for the 29-year-old, though. Over the course of his seven full NHL seasons, Helm has only managed to play more than 75 games twice and injuries have been one of the biggest issues in Helm’s career.

Since the start of the 2009-10 season, when Helm became a full-time big-leaguer, he has missed time with injuries to his head, shoulder, arm, forearm, wrist, back, groin, knee and has also been forced out of action with the flu. The worst of his injuries was a back ailment that struck ahead of the 2012-13 season and forced him to miss 47 of 48 regular season games and all 14 post-season outings.

His current ailment threatens to keep him out for at least 19 games, with the possibility he could miss close to or more than 25 games.

"Personally, I just feel real bad for Darren Helm," Blashill said, according to’s Dana Wakiji. "He's had a tough go over the last number of years. He's got to keep his head up and keep plugging and just try to get himself mentally in a spot where he can be ready when he comes back. That's my biggest thing, I would say, just that you hate to see it happen to a guy again, so it's unfortunate.”

Helm’s injury is the most recent in a rash of injuries that has seen Thomas Vanek and Andreas Athanasiou — who is expected to be out for at least two more weeks — land on the sidelines. After Helm was placed on long-term injured reserve, Tyler Bertuzzi was recalled from the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins, and it appears as though Detroit’s depth will get tested going forward.

In all likelihood, the changes the Red Wings make will be seen most in the makeup of the lines. Luke Glendening, who played as a winger Tuesday, could move back to center, but Blashill pointed to Steve Ott and Riley Sheahan as two other options down the middle to replace Helm.

"When you have injuries, you have to draw upon the depth of those players," Blashill said, according to Wakiji. "Guys have to step up and play real good, maybe in different roles…So whether it's guys in the same roles stepping up or whether it's guys in different roles, whether it's call-up guys, just collectively you have to have guys find a way to go out and have a great process and give yourself the best chance to win.”

One player who could offer something on the offensive side of the puck, which has been a nightmare for Detroit of late, is Anthony Mantha. He finally found his way onto the Red Wings roster thanks to the injuries and in two games, Mantha has averaged 16:35 of ice time and he picked up an assist against the Lightning on Tuesday. That’s not going to blow anyone’s hair back, but he was tearing up the AHL before making the jump up with eight goals and 10 points in 10 games and 34 shots on goal.

Since Oct. 27, the Red Wings have gone 3-6-1 with the only regulation victory coming over the struggling Vancouver Canucks. They’ve been outscored 30-18 over that span. Only five teams have scored fewer goals since Oct. 27, so whether it’s Mantha or a fourth-liner such as Ott, it’s getting to the point where the Red Wings would take any bit of offensive spark they can get.

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