Marchenko feeling pinch as Wings' blue line gets crowded

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

San Jose, Calif. — The Red Wings don’t plan on keeping eight defensemen when Kyle Quincey returns to the roster during this West Coast trip.

Some sort of personnel move will take place, but Alexey Marchenko hopes it doesn’t involve him.

The Red Wings can still send Marchenko back to minor-league affiliate Grand Rapids without exposing him to waivers.

That would be appear to be the easiest route to go at this point.

But there’s also the fact Marchenko has been one of the Red Wings’ steadiest defensemen since returning from Grand Rapids Oct. 24.

“He doesn’t give up many chances,” said coach Jeff Blashill of the defensive-minded Marchenko. “I looked through our chances against for the first 40 games, and especially Grade A chances against we keep internally, not the ones kept through the league, and he probably  has the least amount of Grade A chances than any of the defensemen.

“He does a great job of that. When he’s playing at his best, he’s managing his game well. He makes good pop out passes (out of the zone) and learned not to make any hope plays. He’s smart defensively.”

Blashill wouldn’t speculate as to what the Red Wings will do once Quincey returns.

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“We’re in a day-to-day business,” Blashill said. “What I know for sure is Marchenko is in the lineup (Thursday against San Jose). I’m not in the speculation business.”

For his part, Marchenko is hopeful he’s shown the Red Wings he deserves to be in the NHL.

“I hope so,” Marchenko said. “It’s up to them to decide who is going to play. I just try to do my best.

“My game depends on the team game, so if the team is doing good, I’m hoping I’m doing good in the lineup.”

Blashill has not taken Marchenko out of the lineup since the 24-year-old defenseman returned from Grand Rapids which, said Marchenko, has made life easier.

“You feel the game if you are playing every second day, you’re in game shape and you feel the puck and feel the play better,” Marchenko said. “It’s great to be in the lineup every night.

“It’s up to me to play good every night. He (Blashill) decides who plays the next game.”

Jurco returns

Tomas Jurco returned to the lineup Thursday after missing the last two games with an upper-body injury.

The injury came at an unfortunate time in that Jurco was showing signs of what Blashill wanted to see from him on the fourth line.

“I hope he starts where he left off,” Blashill said. “He did a great job of skating without the puck. On the forecheck he got in there, he’s a big body who can skate and he got sticks on pucks and created turnovers.

“Sometimes when I walk off the bench, I’m not sure what he did. Usually it shows up on tape he did fine. I don’t want fine. I want great and I think he has greatness in him. That line can be real good and he has to be a factor in terms of skating.”

Jurco was skating with Luke Glendening and Drew Miller (broken jaw), who also returned to the lineup Thursday after missing 14 games.
Jurco agrees he was playing with confidence and purpose before getting hurt.

“I felt like I was playing real good,” Jurco said. “I felt I was skating a lot and forechecking hard and just felt more comfortable on the ice.”

Jurco wants to maximize the ice time he gets (he’s averaging just under nine minutes).

“It’s hard obviously when you’re playing seven or eight minutes when you  go out there,” Jurco said. “I don’t think about that and just work hard and do as much good stuff as I can.”

Ice chips

Goaltender Petr Mrazek got the start in San Jose, his fourth consecutive start and ninth consecutive game (seventh start, two relief appearances).

… Blashill likes what he’s seen of Riley Sheahan’s line, with Dylan Larkin and Brad Richards on the wings.

“Those three guys as a group have played together at a high level over the last two games,” Blashill said. “It certainly hasn’t been one guy. It’s a line we think can continue to (develop) and give us depth of scoring. We’re going to need that through the second half of the year.”

…Miller hasn’t played since getting hurt Dec. 3 against Arizona.

“You want to get back quick,” Miller said. “I’ve been skating so it’s not like I’ve been off. I feel really good from that standpoint. You want to go out there and make some plays and feel your way back.”