BY JAMES COOK
— TRAVERSE CITY — No setbacks today for Darren Helm.
That's good news for the Detroit Red Wings center, returning to the ice after missing all but one game last season with a back injury.
Helm skated in a 50-minute session in today's opening day of the Red Wings Development Camp at Centre ICE.
"It was a good first day," Helm said. "I haven't skated in two months, so it was a good start. Hopefully, I'll keep progressing throughout the week and see how I feel after.
"Nothing really bothered me. I'm pretty happy with how things went."
That hasn't been the case in previous attempts to get back on the ice from an injury that he said doctors haven't been able to pinpoint.
"I went through three times before, where I didn't feel bad, I felt like I could skate and I get going and that's kind of where I had my setbacks," Helm said.
The 26-year-old Wings center was truly the veteran at the camp, where most of the other players are in their late teens and early 20s.
"I'm so used to being the young guy on the team," Helm said. "First day, everybody's a little nervous and excited to get out there. I felt the same way. I was nervous to get out there and see how I'm going to do."
Detroit general manager Ken Holland said the team will take it easy with Helm's progression. Helm said he probably wouldn't participate in Friday's scrimmage, but may take advantage of Saturday's off day to do some skating on his own.
"We're going to know more after four or five days," Holland said. "The question is how does he feel after he pushes himself. He's on the ice, and that's a good start."
Visits to various specialists revealed no structural damage, and he didn't require surgery. That made the missed season all the more frustrating for the center who contributed 82 points the previous three years.
"There's a few things it could have been," Helm said. "I don't know there's an exact reason this happened. I've been to a few doctors that say you don't always find out what the real reason for back pain is. There's just ways to work through it, do rehab."
Today's skate was his first in two months, and in that time he took a week off at home that "was good for a mental reset."
"I didn't put my head down and really go after it," Helm said of the camp debut. "But I thought I skated really well. My hands are always a big issue, and it was (again). I give it a couple weeks and I'm sure I'll get that back."
After the skate, he said he went "70 to 80" percent and wants to slowly increase that through the week.
"The goal is to get through this week and feel great and go home," Helm said. "That's what I'm shooting for."