DETROIT – For two straight years Jan Mursak has missed significant playing time due to early-season injuries.
This time around, the 5-foot-11 forward is recovering from a collar bone injury sustained in the season-opener at St. Louis. But he’ll be back in the lineup when the Red Wings host the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight at Joe Louis Arena.
“It hasn’t been fun. I’m just trying to stay positive,” said Mursak, who has two goals and two assists in 45 career games in Detroit. “Some days I’m a little more frustrated than others, but hopefully that’s the end of the injuries. Hopefully I can keep playing here without being hurt.”
The 25-year-old will work on the third forward line with a pair of familiar faces, skating with center Joakim Andersson and Tomas Tatar. The three played together in Grand Rapids with the Red Wings’ AHL affiliate.
“We know each other a little more,” Mursak said. “I always had fun playing with those guys so hopefully we can show that here on the NHL level too.”
Mursak will play in place of Patrick Eaves, who is sitting out his team-high eighth game as a healthy scratch.
The Wings need Mursak to be relentless on the forecheck, coach Mike Babcock said.
“He’s got to shoot the puck and he’s got to be real good defensively, good on the wall and good decision-making at their blue line,” Babcock said. “He’s like anybody coming back, does he want to play short shifts (or) play real hard to earn yourself more ice-time?”
The injury forced Mursak to miss 14 games, which is just 13 percent of the 105 man-games lost by the Red Wings this season. The last time the NHL had an abbreviated 48-game schedule (1995), Detroit had 102 man games lost to injury or illness. Mike Krushelnyski led the way with 23 missed games, followed by Mark Howe (22) and Darren McCarty (15).
With the rash of injuries, Mursak said it’s not easy to erase the injury from his mind.
“You always think that you don’t want to get hurt again,” he said. “I don’t want to be scared out there. I think I’m physically strong enough that I can handle the guys at that level and I’ll show that out there too.”
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