Jurco gets big chance as Mantha is benched

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Tomas Jurco

Detroit – Tomas Jurco’s return to the Red Wings’ lineup is coming at a huge time.

Jurco is replacing Anthony Mantha on the fourth line as the Red Wings host the Flyers (NBCSN / 97.1, 1270) in a crucial playoff positioning game Wednesday night at Joe Louis Arena.

Jurco hasn’t played since March 13, when he was on the ice for just seven minutes against Toronto. He’s been a healthy scratch for the last 10 games and 12 of the last 13.

Mantha went from playing 14:45 in his debut March 15 to only 6:27 Saturday in Toronto. In 10 games, Mantha had three points (two goals, one assist) and a minus-6 rating. Mantha was replaced by veteran Brad Richards on Pavel Datsyuk's line.

Jurco’s work ethic in recent practices, said coach Jeff Blashill, was a key reason for the change.

“I just told (general manager) Ken Holland, he’s (Jurco) really treated these last few weeks of practice with maturity and put himself in position so he can be successful,” Blashill said. “He’s been great in practice and now he has a chance to jump through that window of opportunity.”

Jurco has played 42 games this season with six points (four goals, two assists) and a minus-7 rating.

What was expected to possibly be a breakthrough season for Jurco, especially with Blashill coaching, simply never materialized. (Jurco was coached by Blashill in Grand Rapids.)

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Jurco is concentrating on the immediate future.

“It’s a tough league and it’s not easy to break into the NHL,” Jurco said about his lack of playing time this season.

Depth at the forward positions was another reason Jurco never got much of a chance this season.

“We wanted to make sure Jurco could play at a high pace throughout the game and he got to a point where he could play at a high pace throughout the game,” Blashill said.

Blashill wouldn’t reveal other lineup changes but none are expected. Brendan Smith and Teemu Pulkkinen are both expected to sit out.

Blashill did say, to no one’s surprise, Jimmy Howard would start in net against the Flyers.