Wings coach Babcock misses ‘top-four forward’ Helm

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Darren Helm isn’t the flashiest player in the NHL, but Red Wings coach Mike Babcock sure misses him.

Babcock went so far today as to call 26-year-old Helm — who had nine goals in 68 games last season — “a top-four forward” on his team.

The coach must have been referring to Helm’s defensive play. Or maybe it was his work in the faceoff circle. Or his willingness to throw the body around. Or his speed.

Still suffering from back pain, Helm has only suited up once for Detroit this season. He’s not on the four-game road trip, which starts tonight in Anaheim, and there’s still no timetable for his return.

“He’s rehabbing,” general manager Ken Holland said, per the Detroit Free Press. “His feeling is that he spent a lot of time on the plane the last time going to Western Canada. He felt great going out there, but five hours on the plane back, his back seized up. We’ll see how he is early in the week. I mean, obviously if he feels great we can always get him out, but to fly out here five hours and then fly five hours back next week – he didn’t want to put his back through that again.

“Obviously, it’s a setback.”