TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Although it’s far too early to begin speculating about who will be skating on the Red Wings’ top line this season, coach Mike Babcock presented an interesting combination at Day 1 of the team’s training camp.
Pavel Datsyuk centered the top line alongside Tomas Tatar and Darren Helm, forming a dangerously skillful and speedy trio.
"Those two guys aren’t very slow players," Helm said. "They’re quick, they’re fast, they play the game very quickly and smartly, and I’m just hoping to add whatever I can to help them."
Tatar replaced the Wings’ top prospect, Anthony Mantha, who is sidelined for six to eight weeks with a broken right tibia. The lineup isn’t completely unfamiliar, as Tatar has played with both Helm and Datsyuk before, but skating alongside the "Magic Man" never gets old.
"It’s fun. I mean he’s the Magic Man, so I’m just letting my stick on the ice and hopefully the puck will find me somewhere from him," Tatar said.
Helm couldn’t agree more.
"I hope it’s just not a stint, but playing with him is a lot of fun," Helm said. "Hope I can do it for more than a stint."
Helm was moved to wing to free up the Wings’ logjam at center, and believes his speed can both cause a problem for the opposition’s defense and give his linemates more offensive opportunities.
"Make it a little harder on defensemen, making them have to respect the speed a little bit, could give Pav a little more room," Helm said. "And Tats, if he gets to stay with us, I don’t know what’s going on. But it was fun playing with those guys today, and hopefully it continues."
While Tatar would naturally prefer to stay on the top line with Datsyuk and Helm, he knows it’s highly unlikely the line won’t be juggled around.
"He (Babcock) will try to find chemistry," Tatar said. "I would like to be on a line for sure like this when the season starts. You’ve got to play good.
"You’ve got to play two-way forward. If you’re a forward, do the offensive job but at the same time you have to do the defensive job. There’s lots to do."
For the time being, Babcock plans to have Henrik Zetterberg and Datsyuk on separate lines throughout the preseason and training camp.
"It’s training camp. We need three teams, so that’s what we tried to do," Babcock said. "We shouldn’t talk about stuff in the summer because it never works out.
"We talked about getting Mantha a good look, but reality is, he’ll have to work his way back from Grand Rapids. We’ll just watch our players here this week, and we’ll come up some groups for exhibition. We’ll start up with two teams and narrow it down and end up with one team."
WEISS STILL PAIN-FREE
Forward Stephen Weiss participated in his first scrimmage since suffering a season-ending injury last December, and continues to be pain-free.
"It’s obviously been a while, and it felt pretty good for the first controlled game/scrimmage in about nine months," Weiss said. "I feel healthy, got no pain, and I feel like I’m just going to keep getting better and better as long as I can stay healthy."
Although the scrimmage went well, Weiss knows the real test will begin next week. The Wings’ first preseason game is scheduled for Monday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"I haven’t played a game since December of last year, so I’m looking forward to playing in those exhibition games and getting my legs under me," Weiss said. "Those games ramp up even more than those scrimmages.
"It’s going to be a wakeup call, but like I said, I’m just looking forward to being back on the ice and playing hockey again."
After suffering a setback, veteran forward Daniel Alfredsson isn’t attending the Wings’ training camp.
His future with the organization remains uncertain.
"He’s missing to be up here, but he will take his time and do it right and give it a shot," Zetterberg said.
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