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Notes: Injuries create new opportunity for Jurco

Tyler Bertuzzi and Brendan Smith both expected to miss 3-5 weeks

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT - Now that there's an opportunity because of injuries, Tomas Jurco is ready to take advantage of it.

In Saturday night's 2-1 overtime home loss to the Montreal Canadiens, Tyler Bertuzzi went down after a hit by defenseman Alexei Emelin late in the second period and had to be helped off the ice.

"I just went into the corner and kind of got nudged and caught a rivet and went into the boards a little awkward," Bertuzzi said. "It wasn't a dirty hit. It was just the way I went in it went bad."

On Monday, Wings general manager Ken Holland said Bertuzzi has a high left ankle sprain and is expected to miss 3-5 weeks.

Bertuzzi's injury opens a spot for Jurco, who played in two games with the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins for conditioning.

"I think it went really well," Jurco said. "It was fun. We won one game; we lost one game but most important for me I felt really good and it's a good start."

Jurco had offseason back surgery to fix a problem that has been bothering him for a while.

"I could still play with it but the worst for me was sitting on the bench all the time," Jurco said. "Sometimes I'd have to get up and walk. Sometimes I'd stretch it. It was bad and I've been sitting a lot for the last couple of years on the bench. It was really tough but I'm glad it's gone and I'm excited for a fresh start."

In addition to getting his back taken care of, Jurco also decided he needed to lose some weight.

"He came in last couple years and tried to bulk up and he ultimately doesn't feel as fluid with that body weight, so he's at a much more confident body weight and he just looks real confident on the ice," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said.

Jurco said he had been playing at 200-204 pounds but is now at 192.

"That's how I've always been before," Jurco said. "Last couple of years I was trying to get bigger, stronger but I felt a little tired on the ice. I felt like I was not as quick as I used to be, so this summer I decided to do more cardio work. I lost a few pounds. We'll see how it's going to be like but now I feel like it's a good thing for me and I feel better."

Because Jurco has not played in a game since last April, Blashill plans to ease him into things.

"I told him I have lots of patience with him," Blashill said. "He's not going to get tons of minutes early. We're going to work him into it. But I think he's somebody that can help our lineup."

Jurco was practicing on a line with Riley Sheahan and Steve Ott during Monday's practice.

"When he plays his best for me, he's a guy that can bring energy on the forecheck and he can use his speed to track but he's got skill to go along with that," Blashill said. "So he can be that good kind of today's power forward type player, where he's physically strong. He's 6-foot-2, he skates well, but he's got real good skill. I've seen him score elite-level goals. I think he can score at this level, I think he can make plays at this level, so I think it's a good package."

Jurco wants to put the frustration of the last couple of years behind him and look ahead to the opportunity in front of him, starting tomorrow against the Dallas Stars.

"For sure it's frustrating. Anybody who would be in my shoes they would feel the same way," Jurco said. "Sometimes it just wouldn't go the way I wanted but like I said many times, it is how it is. I've got to fight for my spot in the team and I think I've done a really good job after surgery to get ready. What can I say? I'm excited for tomorrow."

SMITH OUT ALSO: Brendan Smith was also a casualty of Saturday's game against the Canadiens.

At 11:59 of the second period, Smith's right knee collided with Phillip Danault's knee and he had to be helped off the ice.

Holland said Smith has a right MCL sprain and would miss about a month.

Because the Wings have six healthy defensemen in Niklas Kronwall, Mike Green, Jonathan Ericsson, Danny DeKeyser, Ryan Sproul and Xavier Ouellet, they do not need to call anyone up right now. 

However, because the Wings are working to manage Kronwall's chronic knee issues, he has not been practicing the day after games.

"If we need somebody for practice on Wednesday, we'll bring up somebody for practice on Wednesday," Blashill said. "But we're going to manage Kronwall, that takes priority. If we got to call somebody up, we'll call somebody up if it's for practice."

Kronwall has also not been playing in both ends of back-to-back games so the team could call someone up to play this weekend when they have games Saturday in Pittsburgh and Sunday in Brooklyn against the New York Islanders.

Blashill said someone would also be on call in case someone is sick or something happens in Tuesday's morning skate.

COREAU UP: With the injury to goaltender Jimmy Howard, the Wings called up Jared Coreau.

Petr Mrazek is set to start against Dallas Tuesday and against Florida Thursday but Coreau could possibly play in one of the weekend's games.

"I think it's good for Jared to be up here and be part of it and be ready," Blashill said. "I think anytime you're in this dressing room, you'd better be ready for when your opportunity comes so he needs to be ready."

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