Wings' Jurco set to return, rediscover scoring touch

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Pavel Datsyuk is pinned to the back of the goal by  Lightning players during the third period Thursday night.

Tampa, Fla. — No one was more excited to get through Thursday's morning skate than Tomas Jurco.

With no ill effects from a sore back, he was back in the Red Wings lineup Thursday against the Lightning.

"These first couple of games, I'm just going to try to get back into it and play hard and try to play physical," said Jurco, who was on the fourth line with Joakim Andersson and Drew Miller. "Just help out (whatever way possible)."

Jurco played 10 minutes, 59 seconds in his return for Thursday's 5-1 loss to the Lightning and was minus-1, while being credited with one shot and one hit.

Jurco had been bothered by a sore lower back since Jan. 6.

And now that he's back in the lineup, Jurco will attempt to snap out of a goal-less streak that has reached 19 games.

"It just didn't go in for me, but it doesn't mean I wasn't playing good," said Jurco, who entered Thursday's game with 12 points (two goals) in 38 games and a plus-6 rating. "Sometimes it just doesn't go in, and that's what's happened to me."

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock and his staff had Jurco concentrate on other parts of his game — defense, being physical and using his size (6-foot-1, 203 pounds) around the net.

"I was getting better at the other things that Babs wants from me," Jurco said. "It was a bad (offensive) slump for me, but I was doing what (the coaching staff) wanted from me and focusing on that.

"Now, I have to involve the scoring with what he (Babcock) wants. Hopefully it's going to get better."

Jurco replaced Daniel Cleary in the lineup.

Ice chips

Babcock has a unique relationship with Lightning forward Tyler Johnson (17 goals, 31 assists).

"His mom (Debbie Johnson) taught my kids to skate," Babcock said. "I just remember him being a little pip-squeak. For a little pip-squeak who was never drafted, I remember him playing in Spokane (junior hockey) and watching him in the World Junior (Championships) and following him in the American League, and he's turned himself into an unbelievable player.

"It's unbelievable he's not a Red Wing. I could have hand-delivered him so easy it's not even funny."

... Babcock, on his team's recent play: "We've won but we haven't played as well as we need to. Ideally this will get our attention and we'll buckle down and play the right way. You have to play the right way to have success. We have to get our game back."