It’s been a hard-luck season for some of Manitoba’s finest pucksters, and it’s not letting up now that the playoffs have started.
St. Andrews product Darren Helm, the speed merchant who leads the third line for the Detroit Red Wings, saw his Stanley Cup chase come to an abrupt and frightening end less than one period into the Red Wings’ series with Nashville.
Helm had his right forearm sliced open in a freak accident as he sent Predators’ forward Alexander Radulov flying early in Game 1, Wednesday.
Watching on TV as Helm suddenly tossed his glove and stick aside and raced for the bench were his parents.
“We couldn’t figure out what happened,” Helm’s dad, Gary, said Friday. “We weren’t sleeping much that night, knowing he was going into surgery.”
Helm was immediately taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, where he underwent surgery to repair lacerated tendons.
Thankfully, Radulov’s skate blade didn’t sever any nerves, and Helm should be able to resume his career next season.
Helm’s folks got the relatively good news in a call from the Wings doctor at 1 a.m.
“You thank your lucky stars,” Gary Helm said, acknowledging his son isn’t in the best of moods.
Helm’s parents are heading for Detroit, Saturday. But so much for watching their son play in Games 3 and 4, Sunday and Tuesday.
Helm is done for the playoffs, a rude welcome back to the lineup after missing the last 10 games with a knee injury.
“He worked real hard to get back,” Wings forward Tomas Holmstrom told the Detroit News. “He played three minutes (3:08 to be exact) and to get hurt like that, it’s too bad. He’s a big part of our team and we need him.”
A former member of the Junior B Selkirk Fishermen, Helm had chipped in nine goals and 17 assists before his knee injury.
“Anytime you see a guy going through that, first game back and three minutes in shift time, boom — something like that happens, it’s awful,” Wings goalie Jimmy Howard told reporters. “I just hope he makes a speedy recovery.”
A Cup winner with the Wings when he was called up from the minors for the playoffs four years ago, Helm, 25, has become a fixture as one of Detroit’s top penalty killers and hitters.
“Tough for the kid,” head coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s a big part of our club. We’re very thankful there was no nerve damage … that’s the most important thing — that he is going to get well and have the summer to train and get back at it in the fall.”
DEVIL OF A SEASON
The news was better for Winnipegger Travis Zajac going into New Jersey’s playoff opener against Florida, Friday.
The 26-year-old was seven games into his second comeback from a severed Achilles tendon, suffered while training last summer.
Zajac’s first comeback stalled at eight games early in the New Year, when he considered sitting out the rest of the season.
“It was always in the back of my mind, especially going through it a second time,” Zajac told the New York Post. “But the longer it went without trouble, the better I felt. Now, here I am, and there’s nothing more for me to be worried about.”
Except maybe the Panthers.
Playing on a line with Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk should help him get up to speed.
It didn’t take long for Jonathan Toews to make his presence felt, returning to Chicago’s lineup for its playoff opener after missing 22 games with a concussion.
Toews scored four minutes into the Blackhawks game in Phoenix, and assisted on the goal that sent it to overtime, where the Coyotes won it.
Could this be the year the ’Yotes break the Jinx of the Jets?
Phoenix hasn’t won a single playoff series since relocating from Winnipeg to the desert, 16 years ago.
And if the Coyotes pull it off, is there a single person left in the province who’d celebrate it?