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Abdelkader out; Jurco to make debut

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

The Red Wings drafted high-scoring Tomas Jurco in the second round in 2011. The 20-year-old winger will make his NHL debut against Tampa Bay tonight. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT – With two minor-league forwards already up with the Red Wings, Saturday’s injury to Justin Abdelkader put the team’s roster deeper in despair.

Since Patrick Eaves and Luke Glendening were recalled last week and Gustav Nyquist was given permanent residence in the Wings’ locker room last month the talent pool to pick from in Grand Rapids is dwindling.

But in the end, the Wings decided on give an unproven rookie a look tonight, calling up Tomas Jurco, who will make his NHL debut against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Joe Louis Arena.

Jurco, the Wings’ second-round pick in the 2011 NHL draft, is a talented winger with endless upside. He currently leads the Griffins in goals (11), assists (16), points (27) and power-play goals (5). He’s tied for fifth in AHL scoring.

“Well, really it was between him and Riley Sheahan,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We already had up Glendening and he’s that kind of guy, so we looked for a different kind of guy.”

With injuries having decimated the forward lines, with Henrik Zetterberg (back), Stephen Weiss (groin), Darren Helm (shoulder) and Abdelkader (concussion) all sidelined, Jurco is expected to play on the Wings’ top line with center Pavel Datsyuk and winger Daniel Alfredsson.

Babcock admits he doesn’t know much about Jurco, however, Griffins coach Jeff Blashill has given his stamp of approval to the Red Wings.

“Personally, I don’t know him that good,” Babcock said. “Blash tells me he’s a very good player. Blash tells me he has a chance to be a good player. But you can do anything you want down there but you have to come up here and have confidence to do what you do.

“Lots of guys come here and you don’t see them. He’s playing a game here tonight against (Richard) Panick and (Ondrej) Palat, (Tyler) Johnson – that’s the (Syracuse) team you played against last year when they won the (Calder Cup) championship. Just play the game.”

As for Abdelkader, he will go through the league’s concussion protocol, but no timetable for his return has been established.

Pittsburgh defenseman Deryk Engelland will have an in-person hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety on Wednesday after being assessed a match penalty for his first-period hit on Abdelkader.

Engelland was offered the opportunity for an in-person hearing as required by provisions of the CBA for any suspension that can exceed five games.

Abdelkader was skating for a loose puck at center ice when he and Engelland collided near the red line. Engelland's shoulder appeared to strike Abdelkader's chin, and the Detroit forward had to be helped from the ice with 29.3 seconds remaining in the period.

As for Abdelkader’s likely return to the lineup anytime soon, Babcock said team trainers told him, “Don’t hold your breath.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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