Babcock hopes new line lights fire under Jurco

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Tomas Jurco has 15 points in 49 games this season.

Detroit – The last time Tomas Jurco scored a goal was Nov. 26 against Philadelphia, a span of 30 games.

It's been a long, frustrating drought for a young player the Red Wings believed could add a spark offensively this season.

To that end, coach Mike Babcock reunited Jurco with Tomas Tatar on his other wing, with Pavel Datsyuk in the middle, for Wednesday night's game against the Rangers.

When Jurco has played his most effective hockey, Tatar has usually been on the other side.

"He seems to play his best with Tats; when he's played with him, he seems comfortable," Babcock said Wednesday.

Jurco replaces Darren Helm (oblique strain) on the line. It's an excellent opportunity for a young player who hasn't had as much ice time recently.

But Babcock is looking for Jurco, first and foremost, do the grunt work Helm does on that line.

"I expect him to go to work like Helmer does," Babcock said. "Forecheck, turn pucks over by being heavy (on the puck), be at the net, and create space for those guys. It's up to him.

"His confidence probably isn't at an all-time high. He deems himself as a scorer, an offensive guy. He's at the working stage of his career and once he gets comfortable maybe he can get back to that.

"But right now he just has to go to work."

Back at home

Wednesday's game was the first at home for the Red Wings since Feb. 16. They played nine of 11 games on the road in February.

This month, it'll be different, with nine games at Joe Louis Arena.

"The Joe's been nice to us most of the year," Babcock said of the 17-5-7 home record. "Our big thing is just getting back and getting playing right.

"Any time you've been on trips for a long period of time, when you get into that first game back, you're not as good as you'd like to be."

Ice chips

Alexey Marchenko (oblique strain) skated, so his return is likely later this week or early next week, as expected.

… Babcock was intrigued, just as the hockey world was, about the plight of the Florida Panthers Tuesday in Toronto, having both goaltenders hurt and almost forced to use their goalie coach. Al Montoya, however, remained in the game.

"We haven't had that situation at all," Babcock said. "But (we'd use) Jimmy B (Bedard, the goaltending coach) or (general manager) Kenny Holland. Just bring Kenny out of the booth and get those brown pads he wears at alumni games and bring him in."

The most popular choice among the Red Wings as to who would volunteer to play goalie – several Panthers did in their game – was Brendan Smith.

"He's pretty competitive and he seems to be good at everything," Justin Abdelkader said. "He'd volunteer himself."

Babcock was a bit more hesitant about Smith.

"Yeah, yeah, just work on getting out of your zone," Babcock said.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/tkulfan