Crowded at C: Wings to open with Helm as Datsyuk’s winger

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With Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Darren Helm, Stephen Weiss, Riley Sheahan, Luke Glendening and Joakim Andersson down the middle, the Detroit Red Wings have one of those “good problems” — an abundance of NHL-caliber centers.

And it’s a problem Mike Babcock already has a solution for.

While playing Helm with Datsyuk isn’t anything new — last year, the two skated together along with Justin Abdelkader on a makeshift line — it is curious that Babcock would make the move now, with everybody healthy and his feelings on how well Helm plays the middle.

“I think he’s is the best third-line center in the NHL when he’s healthy,” Babcock said last November, per the Macomb Daily. “He’s just got to get his game back. He can be a real factor for us. He’s flat out got speed, he’s tenacious, he’s strong, he’s heavy and he’s a good player.”

Helm, 27, has struggled with a myriad of injuries over the last two years. He missed 58 games (extending over two seasons) 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.

Now, the big question moving forward is — who will occupy the wing opposite Helm? Abdelkader got the call last year, as mentioned above, but the move came under fire on a number of occasions as it seemed incongruous to put Datsyuk’s playmaking abilities in between two guys that are — no disrespect intended — grinder types more than skill players.

Mind you, if Datsyuk can continue to do things like this, Helm and whoever should be just fine.