DETROIT -- Start the countdown clock on Darren Helm's return to the Red Wings' lineup--and the likelihood Jordin Tootoo won't be a Wing much longer.
General manager Ken Holland received as uplifting a text as possible Sunday from Helm, reporting that all was well after two games in the minors and a nine-hour bus journey.
That's putting Helm on a brick-paved path to playing Saturday, when the Wings host the New York Rangers. The Wings host the San Jose Sharks on Monday night at Joe Louis Arena, but since Helm was put on long-term injured reserve to start the season, he has to miss a minimum of 10 games and 24 days. Helm will return from the minors to rejoin practices as he prepares for what will be only his second NHL game in 2013.
"He told me he's looking forward to being in the lineup next weekend," Holland said. "This is a major step, it's great news."
A variety of injuries beset Helm starting in the spring of 2012, to the point where he's played one game the past 18 months--on Jan. 25. So when Helm does return, he won't be the speedy, dangerous player of two seasons ago, which is why he'll start out centering the fourth line and killing penalties while the team waits for him to regain his timing.
Patrick Eaves, sidelined by a sprained knee, will be ready to come off LTIR at the same time. Returning Luke Glendening to the minors will clear some room, but another forward will have to go as well to create salary-cap and roster space for both Helm and Eaves.
Tootoo is the most vulnerable, and if the team can't trade him for a pick, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Tootoo exposed on waivers later this week.
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