Ryan Sproul

Red Wings aim to fill void on blue line internally

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With their lone right shot defenseman, Marek Zidlicky, likely headed for unrestricted free agency next week, the Detroit Red Wings will attempt to fill the void internally.

Dion Phaneuf has been rumored to be headed to Detroit, and there are options on the open market come July 1 (i.e. Cody Franson and Mike Green), but PHT has learned the Wings would like to give their young blue liners a chance.

Detroit has two right shot defensemen under contract for next season in Ryan Sproul and Alexey Marchenko. Nick Jensen is also a right-handed shot, but the pending restricted free agent does not have a contract for next season.

Sproul spent the 2014-15 season in the American Hockey League with the Grand Rapids Griffins collecting five goals, 24 points and 26 penalty minutes in 66 games. The 22-year-old has one NHL game on his resume, but that came during the 2013-14 season. He is owed $620,000 next season before becoming a restricted free agent.

Marchenko appeared in 23 games with the Wings during the 2014-15 scoring a goal and adding an assist while averaging 15:26 in time on ice. The 23-year-old also appeared in 51 games with the Griffins scoring 20 points, a plus-22 rating and 26 penalty minutes. He is heading into the final year of his entry-level deal, which will pay him $666,666 in 2015-16.

Jensen scored six goals and 27 points to go along with 15 penalty minutes and a plus-30 rating in 75 games with Grand Rapids last season. The 24-year-old’s two-year, $1.8 million contract is set to expire next week.

The Wings have qualified Jensen and further contract talks are expected later this week.

“We’ll be talking with (Detroit) down at the draft,” Jensen’s agent, Chris McAlpine, told PHT. “Ken (Holland) has mentioned that he’ll have a good shot of battling for a chance at making the team. That’s what you hope for as a player and Nick’s extremely excited about that.”

Detroit currently has five blue liners under contract for the 2015-16 season – all of them are left shot.

Helm held out after breaking nose vs. Pens

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It’s early, but the Detroit Red Wings are already in regular-season form.

The Wings, who were ravaged by injury last season, lost two key contributors in their opening game of the preseason — Pavel Datsyuk, who suffered a shoulder injury during Monday’s win over the Penguins, and Darren Helm, who suffered a broken nose and was held off the ice on Tuesday:

Helm suffered the injury after taking a Beau Bennett high-stick to the face. The Pens forward was given a double minor on the play.

While it’s unlikely that Helm will miss any significant time with the broken nose, it can’t be seen as a positive that he’s hurt this early into the campaign. The 27-year-old has struggled with a variety of injuries over the last two seasons — he missed 58 games (extending over two years) with a serious back ailment, then an additional 26 last season with shoulder, head and groin issues.

When healthy, though, he’s an impact guy, scoring 12 goals and 20 points in 42 games last year while displaying the versatility to fill a number of different roles up front.