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Several prospects get first taste of NHL

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Jared Coreau went undrafted, but signed a free agent contract with the Red Wings last April. (Photo by Dan Mannes/Detroit Red Wings)

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – Several Red Wings’ prospects will make their NHL preseason debuts tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center.

Former Northern Michigan goalie Jared Coreau and forwards Teemu Pulkkinen and Tomas Jurco are a few of them who will get ice-time in the Wings’ second exhibition game in as many nights.

Pulkkinen, the Wings’ fourth-round pick in 2010, helped the Grand Rapids Griffins win the Calder Cup last spring. The Finnish league rookie of the year in 2011 said he’s excited to showcase his talents against the defending Stanley Cup champions.

“It's going to be nice to play against Chicago,” said Pulkkinen, who produced three goals and five points in 14 AHL playoff games. “I heard there's going to be lots of people watching the game. I can't wait for the game to start. Just play hard and battle hard.”

Pulkkinen played in more than four seasons with Jokerit where he established himself as a natural goal-scorer, who can be a play-maker as well as a physical presence. He collected 49 goals and 79 assists in 185 career games in the top Finnish league.

While the smaller rinks in North America will likely take some time to adjust, Pulkkinen is confident in his ability to assimilate to the American Hockey League.

“You have less room, you have to decide right away when you get the puck what you're going to do next,” Pulkkinen said. “Of course, I want to shoot the puck, but I know I have to play hard. I'm not the biggest guy. I have to skate hard every shift and play hard and battle hard. I like to shoot and score, but it's not easy to score at this level, so I just have to work hard and when I have chance to shoot I hope I can find the net.”

Pulkkinen will play in his first AHL campaign in Grand Rapids, where he’ll join Jurco, who is playing his second full season with the Griffins. A two-time QMJHL championship with the Saint John Sea Dogs, Jurco led all AHL rookies with eight goals in the 2013 playoffs.

“I had a little slow first half, but the second half was really good for me,” Jurco said, of his rookie year. “The playoffs were great. I can build off it and go strong in my second season.”

Tonight’s game will be Jurco’s second career NHL preseason game. Two years ago, he played in Detroit’s 4-3 shootout win over Philadelphia in London, Ontario.

“I’m excited to play in Chicago,” Jurco said. “After they won the Cup, it's going to be great to play there. I'm going to do my best to play really good and show I can play on the next level.”

Jurco, who is 6-foot-2 and 187-pounds, said he continues to work on getting stronger so he can, “Protect the puck a little better” this season.

Tonight’s plan for Coreau is to have the 6-5 goalie replace Jonas Gustavsson at the start of the third period. The veteran backup will work the first two periods before giving way to the rookie.

The Wings were thrilled to add Coreau to their stable of young goaltenders, which includes Petr Mrazek and Jake Paterson, who was sent back to OHL Saginaw following Sunday’s Red and White scrimmage in northern Michigan. Mrazek and Coreau are expected to be the Griffins’ netminders this season.

“The big thing is just competing on every shot,” Coreau said. “Petr and I get along really well. He's a great guy, really good goalie. We're going to push each other, hopefully it's a healthy competition and we learn from each other throughout the year. If he moves on, then it opens the door for me a little more, but I just got to work for everything, any game I get, just got to take the opportunity and make the most of it.”

Like fellow undrafted rookie free agent Danny DeKeyser, Coreau said he had offers from other NHL clubs, however, the intrigue of playing for an Original Six franchise with a rich history and culture was hard to pass up.

“My agent said from top to bottom it's some of the best guys he's ever known,” Coreau said, of the Wings’ staff. “They have a great track record for developing players. I know I'm not going to come into the NHL this year and compete with (Jimmy) Howard. It's a process. I respect the process.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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