Red Wings return to Joe Louis Arena for informal training sessions

Darren Helm has returned to the ice, though he is still not sure when he will return to game action. (Michael Caples/MiHockey)

Jimmy Howard at the Red Wings' informal skate on Thursday. (Michael Caples/MiHockey)

By Stefan Kubus –

DETROIT – The Red Wings have returned to the ice, beginning their series of informal skates this week at Joe Louis Arena with the NHL regular season just over a month away.

Todd Bertuzzi, Mikael Samuelsson, Johan Franzen, Darren Helm, Jonathan Ericsson, Jimmy Howard, Niklas Kronwall, Brendan Smith and Drew Miller all came out on behalf of the Red Wings.

But for this group and the rest of the club, there’s plenty being served up on the plate in 2013-14.

“We’ve got a lot going on, don’t we?” Howard said. “With the Winter Classic, a lot of guys here vying for Olympic spots, HBO 24/7… It’s going to be pretty hectic around here.”

Helm, who played only one game last season, said he was encouraged with the progress he’s making in recovering from a lingering back injury, but isn’t prepared to put a timetable on his return just yet.

“I’ve been here for a few weeks skating and it’s been feeling really good,” Helm said of his back. “I’ve got some work to do in the weight room and few more things to get past, but it’s really looking good.”

For No. 43, just getting back on the ice with his teammates was prescription enough for the time being.

“It was great, even in Traverse City, being out there in that kind of atmosphere, it was fun,” Helm said. “It was fun. This is where I want to be. I love to be here with the guys, skating around, shooting pucks, joking around on and off the ice. I missed it. I’m definitely at a better mind set than I was last year.”

Meanwhile, the Red Wings’ crop was joined by some familiar faces, as Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler (Livonia), Carolina’s Nathan Gerbe (Oxford), Edmonton’s Corey Potter (Lansing) and several other Michigan natives took to the ice to run through some drills.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Potter said. “It’s a great organization. It’s nice of them to let us in here and use their facilities. There’s a lot of great players out there and they bring the coaches in to give us some good drills, so it’s good preparation for the season.”

Former Red Wing Valtteri Filppula (now with Tampa Bay) also skated with his former teammates Thursday in his Red Wings gear.