Return of Kindl, Jurco expected to bolster Red Wings

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News

Grosse Pointe Woods — Defenseman Jakub Kindl will return to the Red Wings lineup Sunday in an afternoon game against the Panthers, coach Jeff Blashill said, and Tomas Jurco will return to the NHL roster after a conditioning stint in Grand Rapids, in which he was red hot.

Jakub Kindl

Continuing the two-goalie system, Petr Mrazek (2.21 goals against average, .931 save percentage) will return in goal after Jimmy Howard playing in the 4-3 overtime win against the Oilers on Friday.

“Right now, we’re going to have him back in tomorrow. Kindl’s actually done a good job,” Blashill said of the 28-year-old defenseman, now in his seventh season and third of four-year contract.

Kindl has not dressed for the past four games.

“I think we’ve got seven `D’ and they’re good. So, whoever we take out it’s not because they played bad. It’s because you can’t play seven.”

Blashill said the final decision on who comes out will be made Sunday.

“We wanted to make sure he got some penalty killing time under his belt, so if he did go back in, he was real confident as a penalty killer,” Blashill said. “It’s something we’ve been working towards in the last week.”

In 17 games, Kindl has five points (two goals, three assists) and is a plus-3.

He has not played since Nov. 18 against the Capitals. In his last 10 games, he has had 26 shots, two goals, an assist and he is a plus-1.

His big moment came scoring the game-winning goal in overtime against the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Nov. 6.

“Again, I’m going to try to play exactly the way I did before I was not playing, so I’m not going to change anything,” Kindl said, after practice at University Liggett School on Saturday.

Asked if sitting tested his patience, the defenseman said it is nothing new for him.

“I’ve been in this position,” he said. “It’s a good thing it hasn’t been longer than it was.”

Kindl said he is feeling increasing comfortable offensively.

“As you see, all of our `D’ is trying to be more involved offensively, so that’s what I’m going to do — exactly what I tried to do before two weeks ago,” he said.

Blashill said it is not always what a player does or does not, when he sits for several games. In Kindl’s case, he said, it was a simple matter of numbers.

Meanwhile, Kindl’s task remains what it was.

“He’s needs to create more positive plays than negative plays,” Blashill said.  “Simple as that.”

And Blashill stressed Kindl’s offensive skills on the breakout, in the neutral zone and passing to generate goals.

Jurco's run in Grand Rapids

Jurco, 22, garnered nine points (five goals, four assists) in five games in Grand Rapids — all of which the Griffins won to improve the record of the Wings’ AHL club to 7-8-0-1.

He scored a hat trick and assisted on one Nov. 20 against San Diego.

Jurco garnered an assist, two shots on goal and four penalty minutes in just four games with the Red Wings this season, after a disappointing year with the parent club last season. In 103 NHL games over three seasons, he has 34 points (11 goals, 23 assists) and a plus-6.

His strength is his offense skill, and former coach Mike Babcock placed confidence in him and kept him on the team throughout the season, last year, with little reward.

Blashill announced Jurco’s return, after practice.

“Our plan is to play him, but we’ll make the final lineup decision tomorrow,” Blashill said. “I haven’t had a chance to talk to him, yet. But we’re recalling him with the thought we’re going to play him.

“He’s done a good job. He went down and did what we asked him to do. He was great, from all accounts.

“We wanted him to gain some confidence,” the coach said. “We think, obviously, the way he’s played down there, he should come back with lots of confidence.”

And he has to return and play well.

“He’s got to play the right way,” Blashill said.

“He’s got to skate, be on the forecheck. He’s got to be a big body in front of the net. He’s got to have confidence and poise and ultimately shoot the puck in the net, the way I’ve seen it, the way he’s done it down there.

“I know he can score at this level.”

Panthers at Red Wings

Faceoff: 2 p.m., Sunday, Joe Louis Arena, Detroit.

TV/radio: FSD, 97.1

Notes: The Panthers (9-9-4) were five points behind the Wings and 11th in the Eastern Conference, entering play Saturday, after defeating the Islanders 3-2, Friday. The win ended a three-game losing streak. Jaromir Jagr did not return to the game after leaving at 8:39 of the third period with an injury, but coach Gerard Gallant, the former Red Wings player, said Jagr will play Sunday. Jagr is a goal behind the former Wings and Kings forward Marcel Dionne for fourth place with 731 career goals, and leads the Panthers, at age 43, with 18 points… The Red Wings (12-8-3) still have three fewer goals for (55) than against (58) and seek to improve their record at home (6-5-2) in the third of six straight in Detroit.