Darren Helm couldn’t find the visiting locker room at Little Caesars Arena. But it took him just 1:12 to find the scoresheet in his return to Detroit as a member of the Avalanche.
Helm, 34, fed Cale Makar, who was able to get a shot on target before Gabriel Landeskog cleaned up the rebound to open the scoring for the Avs. The 13-year veteran of the Red Wings was on the ice for the opening faceoff in his first game back and took full advantage of the nice gesture from his head coach.
“Perfect opening to our game,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said. “Everyone was excited for Helms. He brought a little juice to our room coming back here. Everyone knows what this city and team meant to him for so long and now to be moving on his first time back here, that helps kind of get our team going.”
The Avalanche also had goals from Tyson Jost, Nazem Kadri and Valeri Nichushkin and an empty netter from Landeskog to finish off their road trip with a 5-2 victory on Wednesday. The victory was their eighth in a row against their old fierce rivals in Motor City dating back to 2017.
Forward Alex Newhook also had two assists and defenseman Devon Toews finished with a plus-4.
“This is kind of the home stretch to the playoffs so you got to start ramping up your game on the road,” Jost said. “You remember last year in Vegas, how tough it was to win on the road, even at St. Louis too. So I think that’s something as a team we’ve kind of learned over the years, we’ve grown and know how important it is to win on the road.”
Helm finished the night with 10:53 of ice time. Two of his seven points this season have come against the Wings. He also scored against Detroit at Ball Arena on Dec. 10. He had not recorded a point since scoring that goal.
I sat down with Darren Helm prior to puck drop at Little Caesars Arena to get his thoughts on Wednesday’s matchup. Here is what he had to say heading into his second game against Detroit and first on the road.
Q: What are your feelings about being here in Detroit on the visiting side?
A: Exciting for sure. It’s funny, I didn’t even know my way around the visiting side. So it was kind of fun. Just to come down here to see some familiar faces. I’ve been looking forward to this game.
Q: Any thoughts on what a tribute might look like? How do you drown all of that out and just focus on the game?
A: Just try not to think about that. It’s going t be tough to get through. I don’t know what they’ll do if anything but just excited to be here. Like I said, I got to see some familiar faces and was happy to see those people. Just trying to think of it like any other game with the emotion involved. Just go out and play.
#Avs Darren Helm told me this morning he was going to try his hardest to keep it together and not think about the emotions of his return to Detroit.
Safe to say he was living in the moment during this tribute and fighting back tears pic.twitter.com/BszEdfwshd
— Aarif Deen (@runwriteAarif) February 24, 2022
Q: How did you spend your day on Tuesday upon arrival in the Metro Detroit area?
A: My wife and kids are in town and one of our friends picked me up. We went back home and we had some family friends that are not former teammates come over and we just hung out. It felt like another normal summer day in the offseason. It was nice.
Q: I was going to ask about your family. Was it important for all of you that they come out for this game?
A: It’s really nice that they’re here. I think my wife is more excited than I am. It really does mean a lot that they came back from Denver to get here to watch this game.
Q: Of the guys remaining on the other side that you played with, who are you most excited to take on tonight?
A: They have a great group of guys over there. Obviously, there are a few I don’t know, but Larks, Dekeyser as well. They’re probably the two guys I played with the most but also a handful o other guys spent a lot of time with and have a lot of respect for so I think just all those guys in general.
Q: Speaking of Dylan Larkin, he’s having an excellent year. Did you know he had this in him?
A: Absolutely. We had some tough years here the last couple. but just from getting the opportunity to watch him each game and practice, you knew he had the talent and skill. He’s one of the hardest working guys on the team and he drives this team. I’m not surprised by the year he’s having. Great player, great leader. I’m just really happy that he’s doing what he’s doing so far. He’s got many more good years ahead of him. I can’t wait to see him continue to grow.
Q: Detroit fans are likely going to get a chance to honor you tonight. What’s your message to this fanbase?
A: No question, this is a great fan base. I just really enjoyed my time here and I felt a lot of support throughout the years. I’m just really happy to be back.
Aarif Deen is our Colorado Avalanche beat reporter. He covers Avs games live from Ball Arena and attends practices, media availabilities and other events pertaining to the Avs on the daily beat. He is also a co-host of Hockey Mountain High: Your go-to Avalanche Podcast. Deen joined Mile High Sports upon completion of his bachelor’s degree in journalism and master’s in business administration from the University of Michigan – Dearborn. Before Mile High Sports, Deen worked for the Michigan Wolverines Athletics Department as the assistant sports information director.
Follow him on Twitter @runwriteAarif