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Injuries, World Cup affect Wings going into camp

Coach Jeff Blashill has made changes to account for missing players

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - The Red Wings that are in training camp are not the same group that will start the season.

Part of that is due to injuries to captain Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall, Tomas Jurco and Teemu Pulkkinen and the other part is due to several players participating in the World Cup.

New acquisitions Frans Nielsen and Thomas Vanek are both on Team Europe along with Tomas Tatar.

Petr Mrazek is with Team Czech Republic, Alexey Marchenko is with Team Russia, Justin Abdelkader is with Team USA and Dylan Larkin is with Team North America.

Wings coach Jeff Blashill has said that none of the World Cup players will be in Traverse City even if their team is eliminated from the tournament.

They will meet up with the team when the Wings return to Detroit after next Monday's Red-White scrimmage.

"We got a few extra injuries to deal with, but we already set the structure to be a little different," Blashill said. "We'll have two full teams and a third group rather than three full teams. We'll do some different things in terms of scrimmages, we won't just have pure scrimmages, the first couple of days we'll do some specialty team scrimmages and a 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 scrimmage. Leave the main scrimmage for the Red-White."

After the team physicals Thursday Blashill said Pulkkinen, who had left shoulder surgery in June, won't be cleared yet for full contact.

"He can bump it, so I shouldn't say non-contact, I should say manageable contact," Blashill said, "He can bump it but he can't (do the) full-out thing where he's going to get run from somebody."

Pulkkinen said earlier in the week that he hoped to play in a few exhibition games.

As for Jurco, he's further behind than Pulkkinen.

"He's a ways away, into early November I would say," Blashill said. "I don't know that for certain but I'd say late October, early November. He won't be available to play, I think, until early November."

Jurco underwent back surgery about a month ago.

"I've started out rehab and after that I'm going to try to get in shape again," Jurco said. "So it's hard to say right now how long it's going to take but hopefully the beginning of November sounds good."

Jurco said the back problem didn't show up until later in the summer.

"I was working out hard, feeling really good and then all the sudden it started shooting in my leg," Jurco said. "That's when I knew I got to go to get new MRI and hear some doctors' opinions, so I went for an MRI in Slovakia, talked to some doctors, they said surgery would probably be the best thing for me to do and so I came to Detroit and had surgery done and now here I am."

Although the start of his season will be delayed, Jurco is glad he had the surgery.

"It is disappointing but on the other hand I'm happy it's finally over with," Jurco said. "It's been bothering me for a few years and now it's over with. It's like a fresh start for me and even if it's a little later in the season I'm going to make sure I'm going to be ready and I'm going to feel good in November."

Blashill confirmed that Zetterberg will not be able to practice with the team after suffering a knee injury during off-ice workouts.

"He's going to just skate on his own now," Blashill said.

In addition to preparing the players, training camp will give Blashill more time to get to know his new assistant coaches, Doug Houda and John Torchetti.

"We went up to Traverse and watched a couple of games in the prospects tournament," Blashill said. "We've really been here on a fairly regular basis since mid-August. We've been able to watch these World Cup games, which is great, too, because we can gather the next day - what did you see? What did you see? Go through some clips and any changes we might make systematically we might go through. But I think it takes time to develop that chemistry, so I think the more time we spend together the better. I've really liked our chemistry so far but I really look forward to training camp to build that."

Although the whole team won't be together in training camp and there will be a lot of players that will be playing in Grand Rapids this season, there are some important things Blashill wants to create.

"Two things, mentality of work ethic, competition, and detail and identity, how we're going to play," Blashill said. "So mentality and identity are the two biggest things we're trying to establish over the weekend."

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