Red Wings’ Miller, Jurco set to return against Sharks
Taylor — The Red Wings’ four-game swing through California and Arizona begins Thursday in San Jose against the Sharks, who beat the Wings, 3-2, on Nov. 13 in Detroit.
Coach Jeff Blashill said Drew Miller (broken jaw, surgery), whose presence is much needed on the penalty kill, and Tomas Jurco (head) are likely to return against the Sharks, while Kyle Quincey (ankle surgery) will be back on the blue line at some point on the road trip.
The Wings can use their two-game win streak — against the Sabres and Devils — as the foundation for a push, Blashill added. But playing better recently does not perpetuate without firm intent and action.
“First and foremost, again, it’s us doing what we do well,” said Blashill, who’s 20-13-7 near the halfway point of his rookie season as an NHL coach. “And so, one, we’ve got to continue to manage the puck well. And, two, we’ve got to make sure our competitiveness level is at a real high spot.
“San Jose? I think they’re very well coached. If they get a lead on you, it’s hard to create lots of pressure on them. We saw that in our building, although I thought we played a pretty good game. They had the lead and it got locked down pretty good.
“So we have to make sure we’re ready to go at the drop of the puck. You can’t guarantee yourself that you’re going to score first, but we’ve got to be ready at the drop of the puck and ready to go for 60 minutes.”
Most coaches say momentum does not carry much from game to game, but good work habits sometimes do.
“I think as you win and play the right way, that grows your confidence. If you lose, it deteriorates your confidence,” Blashill said. “When you go through the season, you’ve got to do everything you can to nip any kind of losing in the bud as fast as possible, and you want to get on stretches when you win lots of games.
“So, can we build off those two wins? Yes. Does it guarantee us success? No chance.”
Penalty kill boost
Miller returns to the lineup after breaking his jaw on Dec. 3 and undergoing surgery, giving the Red Wings’ penalty kill an instant boost.
“It’s been a little while since I’ve been back in the lineup, so I feel ready to go and excited to get back with the boys and playing,” the former Spartan said.
“I’ll just try to key on the things that are big in my game and be defensively sound, and on the penalty kill get out there and try to create some energy.
“So, find some starting points and then let my game build from there.”
Plates remain permanently in Miller’s jaw, but an advantage to how the injury occurred is it was not wired shut. Weight loss was not a big consideration.
Blashill likes having the nine-year veteran back on the penalty kill.
Tomas Nosek, sent back to Grand Rapids Tuesday, did good work in his stint with the parent club and was valued for replacing Miller on the kill. But Miller is the best the Red Wings have on the specialty team.
“I’ve said all year, Drew Miller’s an elite penalty killer,” Blashill said. “Part of that is having guys able to make reads in situations.
“The penalty kill puts you in chaotic situations, and you can’t draw every situation on the board. And he can make great hockey reads, he’s got a great stick and he blocks tons of shots.”
Red Wings at Sharks
Faceoff: 10:30 p.m., Thursday, SAP Center, San Jose
TV/Radio: FSD/97.1, 1270
Outlook: The Wings scored first at home in November against the Sharks and then yielded three consecutive goals. They were not happy with their play after the third goal, thinking they did not press the issue vigorously, with time left… The Sharks began Wednesday in sixth place in the Pacific Division with lots of issues, after winning only four out of 13 games in December before losing to the Jets at home. A bit of a puzzle, they have the worst home record in the NHL at 5-11, but have also shown the ability to win, even in streaks, on the road.
Road trip schedule
Today: at San Jose, 10:30 p.m.
Sunday: at Anaheim, 8 p.m.
Monday: at Los Angeles, 10:30
Thursday, Jan. 14: at Phoenix, 9 p.m.