Detroit -- The Red Wings are very close to being back to full health.
Darren Helm, who missed the last 10 games of the regular season with a knee injury, could return for Game 1 of the first-round series against the Nashville Predators.
"Slight possibility, hopefully if it feels really good tomorrow I'll go, if not then our goal was Game 2 or 3 anyway," Helm said after Tuesday's practice at Joe Louis Arena. "If I'm in for Game 1 great, that's what I wanted to play in, but the second game I will be ready by that one."
Coach Mike Babcock said if Helm can play in Game 1, he's in.
"I watched him again today and he was flying," Babcock said. "When he blew by our (defense), I thought he looked pretty good to me. All he's gotta do is tell me he's playing and I'm happy to have him."
Babcock said he didn't know who would sit out if Helm could play.
Helm's speed and energy have been missed by the Wings, something that Babcock has mentioned more than once.
"He's a big part of this team," defenseman Brad Stuart said. "Whether it's penalty kill or getting that good forecheck going for us and creating some havoc, just with his speed. He's a guy you've got to respect because of his speed. When we get him back, it's going to be a big boost for us."
Even though Helm has been off the ice for a long time until the last week, that's not the part of the game he's worried about.
"Skating has always been a thing I get back pretty quick," Helm said. "I don't skate a whole lot during the summer. I already feel I'm skating better than I have the first few times I was out on the ice. It's just getting used to the brace.
"I haven't done much for three and a half weeks. I wasn't in the best shape going out there. My lungs were feeling pretty heavy and my legs as well.
"I do feel the biggest thing right now when I do come back will be the timing. My hands usually take a little bit longer than my legs do."
Backup goaltender Joey MacDonald remains out with a back injury and forward Patrick Eaves is out with concussion symptoms.
Special teams will be key
The Wings did not finish the season ranked anywhere near where they wanted to be on the power play or penalty kill.
They finished 22nd in the NHL on the power play and 18th on the penalty kill.
The Predators, on the other hand, were first overall on the power play and 10th on the penalty kill.
But Detroit's penalty kill has improved, especially since Jonathan Ericsson returned from a broken wrist.
"We've been a little more aggressive maybe," Stuart said. "In certain situations we're being a little more aggressive. Guys have bought into (the philosophy) pretty good.
"As you go and you get more confidence in it, it's gone better. It's like anything. We've just got to continue in that same vein of being aggressive and having that confidence we're going to get it done."
Goaltender Jimmy Howard is the last line of defense on the penalty kill.
"You've got to be aware of (Alex) Radulov and (Paul) Gaustad taking face-offs and everything like that," Howard said.
"They've added some key components, (Andrei) Kostitsyn can really fire the puck. You've got to be aware of (Shea) Weber, taking away his big shot."
On the other hand, the power play has not had a lot to show for itself the last several weeks of the season, in part because so many players were out with injuries.
To compound matters, Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne is 6-foot-5, which means there's very little net to shoot at.
Tomas Holmstrom was asked about his approach on the power play, standing in front of such a big goalie.
"You have to look over your shoulder more to see where he is looking, but sooner or later he might go down in a butterfly and when hes down there he really cant see anything," Holmstrom said. "But hes a really good goalie and it will be a big test to get some screens on him."
Zetterberg right where he needs to be
Henrik Zetterberg may not have had the start of the season he wanted or expected but he seemed to be playing at his typical high level during the second half of the year.
In his first 50 games, Zetterberg just had nine goals and 26 assists. In his last 32, he had 13 goals and 21 assists and finished by leading the team in scoring with 69 points.
"Ever since All-Star Break its been going better for me personally," Zetterberg said. "The start for me was really tough. The toughest start Ive ever had in my career. Im glad that Ive found my game a little more. Now its playoffs. Thats the most fun you can be part of. Im really looking forward to it."
Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall were the only two Wings to play in all 82 games.
Zetterberg is especially motivated for this year's playoffs as he didn't get to play that much in last year's run because of an injury.
"I missed all the first round against Phoenix last year, it was a tough time for me to be out," Zetterberg said. "It was seven games against San Jose and that was the playoffs for me. Im really looking forward to a longer run here. Everything starts tomorrow."
Everyone knows the playoffs are really Johan Franzen's time of year.
"Its always fun," Franzen said. "Im always excited about it. Its the best time of the year. Its getting nice outside and playing playoff hockey."
In the 2008 run, Franzen had 13 goals and five assists in 16 games. In the 2009 run, he had 12 goals and 11 assists in 23 games. In the 2010 run, it was six goals and 12 assists in 12 games.
"When you have a history of playing good, you are more confident and comfortable that you can do it. I must be doing something right," Franzen said. "Ill just try to keep playing the same way."
Last year Franzen only had two goals and one assist in eight games, but he was hampered by an ankle injury.
This year he's healthy but he did miss time near the end of the regular season because of back spasms.
"I was out for a few games," Franzen said. "It always takes a few games coming back to get up to speed and feel good about yourself.
"I got a few goals the last few games, that always helps the confidence. It makes you feel a little bit lighter out there. You have more energy and its easier to skate."
Where the regular season can sometimes become a drag, Franzen said no one feels that way when the postseason arrives.
"You got to let it all out," he said. "Every team is so good and you dont know how long its going to last. You have to give it all every game."