DETROIT — Darren Helm isn’t the only Red Wing dealing with back problems.
Goaltender Joey MacDonald — remember him? — He’s had back issues for years, including undergoing surgery in 2006 to repair a bulging disc.
Last season MacDonald came up from Grand Rapids when Jimmy Howard got hurt. MacDonald helped the Wings set a new NHL record with 23 straight home victories.
But then his back problems resurfaced in mid-March and sidelined him for the rest of the season. Then the Wings signed goaltender Jonas Gustavsson to back up Jimmy Howard.
“It’s frustrating, especially after a year like last year when everything went so well and timing was everything,” MacDonald said. “But hey, it’s no different than any other year for me. You come into camp and battle, battle, battle and if you’re not No. 1 you’re battling for No. 2. It doesn’t matter. You just keep battling and working hard and look at last year and look what happened.”
MacDonald said his back feels 100 times better than it did when he aggravated it last March. He also said doctors who examined him didn’t feel he would need surgery again. In fact, his latest problems might be partly due to scar tissue breaking up from the 2006 surgery.
“I had an injection last week and things are going really well so hopefully, maybe by next week start skating and get back at it again,” MacDonald said after the Wings practiced Thursday morning at Joe Louis Arena. “Just one of those things that got good probably by July and then it just acted up again, same kind of thing. It’s frustrating but we’re back playing and everyone’s kind of excited and just gives you a little motivation.”
MacDonald said he’s remaining optimistic about his future with the Wings, despite everything.
“My main goal is to get back, get healthy,” MacDonald said. “It’s going to be a quick season, 48 games, not a lot of time off. There’s going to be injuries. Right now it’s getting my cardio going and once I get out on the ice it’s not going to take long for Jimmy B (goaltending coach Jim Bedard) and Oz (Chris Osgood) to get me back.
Mikael Samuelsson returned to the ice after missing a couple of days with a sore groin.
“It feels good,” Samuelsson said. “No feelings at all. Good first part of the day.”
Samuelsson said if it were up to him, he would play in Saturday’s opener in St. Louis, as long as things go well the rest of Thursday and Friday.
“First it’s got to feel good on the ice,” Samuelsson said. “After that I don’t think I will have a problem. But the day after also is important, especially if you go twice here today. So far, so good.”
Helm remains off the ice with his sore back and won’t be available for the start of the season.
“He said he could touch his toes,” coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s not going to play this weekend. I would expect him after that.”
Jakub Kindl did not skate in the morning practice due to a tender groin.
Back at the Joe
Now that the Ford Motor Company is done with Joe Louis Arena, the Wings have their home back.
“It’s great, obviously,” Babcock said. “Came down here yesterday. I’ve been down here lots. But having the players down here today is obviously a positive thing for us.”
The main concern now is gearing up for Saturday night’s game in St. Louis.
“I think we tried to do is what we tried to do the other night at Compuware where we came in and had a morning skate, tried to do it twice, tried to get our body clock on,” Babcock said. “We’re trying to skate as much as we possibly can and go through the details of our play.“
In terms of things that have changed at the Joe, defenseman Brendan Smith now has the locker that Nick Lidstrom had for so many years in the dressing room.
Ready for power play
With Tomas Holmstrom set to announce his retirement, who will take his spot in front of the net on power plays?
One of the main people who inherits that job is fellow Swede Johan Franzen.
“I’ve been doing it on and off for the past four or five years, so I’ve been working on it all that time, too,” Franzen said. “I’ve been watching Homer and worked on different things with him after practices, so it’s not a big difference for me. I’m used to doing that part.”
In addition to no Holmstrom in front of the net, there will be no Lidstrom at the point either.
“But we’ve got Kronner back there and he’s worked as hard as anyone,” Franzen said. “He’s going to do just fine.”