Darren Helm is encouraged by the progress he's made this summer after missing virtually all of last season with a mysterious back injury.

But the Detroit Red Wings veteran forward stopped short of saying he plans to be in the lineup Oct. 2 for the season opener against the Buffalo Sabres.

That's still a long way off.

"I'm not thinking about it. I'm just trying to get better" Helm said Thursday after skating with about two dozen players at Joe Louis Arena. "I'm not putting a time line on opening the season. I'm just trying to get better.

"I did want to get back for last year but with no real reason of why I had back pain it made me push harder and harder to work through it. Now things are going well I want to keep it at this pace and when I'm ready I'm ready."

Helm 26 missed all but one game last season after injuring his back while working out during the NHL lockout. Doctors never gave him a definitive diagnosis as to what the problem was and he spent the entire season and most of the playoffs trying to return to the ice with no luck.

He was finally able to skate in July at the Red Wings Development Camp in Traverse City and reported no setbacks.

Since then Helm has been skating and lifting weights at Joe Louis Arena and although he's feeling the usual pain that goes with working new muscles he said he hasn't experienced the pain that sidelined him last season.