DETROIT – Tuesday a milestone game for Tomas Jurco, but it’s an even bigger opportunity for him.
Jurco will make his season debut tonight in his 100th career game for the Red Wings when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning at Joe Louis Arena. Puck drop is 7:30 p.m. EST.
“I didn’t even realize that it’s a hundred,” said Jurco, who will skate on the fourth line with Luke Glendening and Drew Miller. “It’s gone by really fast. I remember my first game here and it seems like it was just a couple of weeks ago, so it went by fast.”
But it hasn’t always gone the way that Jurco and the Red Wings would like. The 22-year-old forward arrived in Detroit in 2013-14 with plenty of fanfare as an established offensive dynamo.
He made an immediate impact for the Wings who were dealing with a plethora of injuries. The young Slovakian took advantage of his chances that first season, finding instant chemistry with Riley Sheahan and Tomas Tatar.
“We were sometimes first power-play line, so that helps lots for sure when you’re on the ice a lot,” Jurco said. “You feel the puck more and we created lots of offense. ”
However, Jurco’s development seemed to hit the wall last season with his productivity regressed to 18 points in 63 games.
Still, coach Jeff Blashill has faith in Jurco’s ability; after all, the two were together in Grand Rapids when the big forward was a point-per-game player for the Griffins.
“I’ve got lots of belief in Jurks,” Blashill said. “I’ve seen Jurks be great at times for me. He’s 6-foot-2 and he can skate, so the number one thing he needs to do is make sure he’s skating. He needs to pressure on the forecheck. He needs to have a physical presence and a stick on puck on the forecheck. He needs to have lots of time spending in the o-zone and then he needs to do a good job of pressuring back on the track. As simple as it can be though, in its simplest form, he needs to do a real good job of skating.
“If he’s gonna make a mistake make it out of skating.”
Jurco knows he needs to make an impact if he’s to stay in the lineup.
“I just gotta skate a lot, work hard you know,” he said. “That’s what Blash wants from me in the fourth line, so I’m gonna do my best to work hard and maybe create some offense.”
Right Wing - DET
Goals: 0 | Assists: 1 | Pts: 1
Shots: 3 | +/-: E
Aside from Jurco’s season debut, Blashill plans to make one minor tweak to his lines tonight, essentially switching Gustav Nyquist
and Johan Franzen
Nyquist moves down to the third line with Riley Sheahan and Teemu Pulkkinen, while Franzen will be elevated to the second line with Brad Richards and Tomas Tatar.
The top line of Dylan Larkin, Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader, which has accounted for six of the team’s eight goals in two games, is the only line not affected by Tuesday’s changes.
“We’re flipping them to start here and we’ll see,” Blashill said. “We have a couple of things that we can move to through the game if needed. But we wanted to go back with Larkin with Z. We were just looking for a little more (offense) from those lines. However, I don’t think one is better than another. We ‘re just looking for the right combinations.”
HELM WAITS: Still dealing with a few post-concussion symptoms, Darren Helm will not play Tuesday, saying he’d rather error on the side of caution than risk further complications.
“There's been a few symptoms that have kind of plateaued,” he said. “I don't know if that's a mental thing or some other stuff going on that was causing a few different things, so we're just going to give it a couple days, make sure it doesn't get worse. Hopefully good for Friday."
It’s been a week since Helm returned to practice. He even skated in line rushes Monday with the fourth line, and seemed ready to make his season debut Tuesday.
But after speaking with his neurology after Monday’s practice, it was decided that Helm would wait a few more days.
“We just talked about a couple different things,” Helm said. “We decided the best thing was probably just to wait a couple more days and go from there.”
Left Wing - DET
Goals: 2 | Assists: 0 | Pts: 2
Shots: 3 | +/-: 2
A streaky scorer in his past call ups with the Red Wings, Pulkkinen is known as a legitimate sniper.
But if he’s to become a consistent goal-scoring threat in the National Hockey League, he’ll need to develop a scoring touch from below the face-off circles. Like he did twice in the third period of Saturday’s 4-3 win at Carolina.
“I just want to score. It doesn’t matter how you score,” he said. “I got lucky there. It’s good to get a couple lucky ones then you feel more comfortable on the ice and you may have more room for a shot.”
He might have had some motivation when his nose was bloodied by a Hurricanes player’s high stick during the first period.
“That was unlucky to get the stick to the face, but that happens to me all of the time,” he said. “It was bleeding the whole game. I wasn’t happy about that, but it’s over.”