DETROIT – Darren Helm, Joakim Andersson, and now Tomas Jurco.
For the third time in five days the Red Wings announced that a previously injured player will return to the lineup. And more help is on the horizon as Justin Abdelkader said he’ll be back by next Wednesday at the latest.
Helm (concussion) returned Saturday, Andersson came back Sunday, and Jurco said he’ll play Thursday against the Montreal Canadiens at Joe Louis Arena.
“Yeah, Jurcs is ready to go so that’s good for us,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said.
Jurco missed the past seven games with a broken rib, courtesy of a cross-check from Blue Jackets forward Blake Comeau on March 11 in Columbus.
Remarkably, the Red Wings remain in the hunt for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, amid a four-way tie for the No. 7 seed, despite the flurry of injuries that has blanketed the team all season long.
The Red Wings were in real trouble earlier this month when one player in six straight games suffered significant injuries, including Jonas Gustavsson (groin), Andersson (foot), Todd Bertuzzi (lower body), Justin Abdelkader (leg laceration) and Jonathan Ericsson (finger surgery).
“It’s been important to have the young guys step in like they have and play big roles,” Abdelkader said. “They’ve done a great job. They’ve kept us in the playoff hunt. They’ve grown with every opportunity they’ve gotten. We’ve seen a lot of good things from them.”
While no timetable has been established for the return of their two superstars, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, it’s a welcome sign that the Wings are finally getting healthy bodies back on the roster.
But just because they’re getting players back doesn’t mean those players will instantly be in game shape, Babcock said.
“The big thing is you get them back but they’re good for one game and then it takes them about three games to get their conditioning up to speed,” the Wings coach said. “Normally during the year, you spend more time getting them ready. A guy like Jurcs, who had ribs, it’s not as big a deal. But when you have concussions or things like that and you can’t skate … you say you have the player back but you never got him back, you just got his number or his name. So, obviously, Helmer after a few games should be a lot better. Jurcs should be ready to go because he’s been skating.”
Abdelkader skated Wednesday for the first time since suffering a laceration above his left knee in Chicago on March 16. He didn’t rule out a possible return this weekend – Detroit plays at Toronto Saturday, and hosts Tampa Bay Sunday – though the game against the Bruins is more likely.
“It’s hard to say, Wednesday at the latest,” Abdelkader said. “I haven’t practiced with the team yet. I haven’t gone through a full practice or full drills, so we’ll see how it responds and go from there.”
Jurco has helped make up the Wings’ kids line with Tomas Tatar and Riley Sheahan. The trio has been a pleasant surprise, providing energy and offensive balance.
“It’s been tough watching the games and not be able to help the team,” Jurco said, “But now I’m back and hopefully I can help the team tomorrow.”
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