Detroit – For Tomas Jurco, who’ll be 24 next month, a return to the Detroit Red Wings’ lineup represents an opportunity to forget two seasons of infrequent playing time.
Jurco was called up from Grand Rapids on Monday as Brendan Smith (knee) and Tyler Bertuzzi (ankle) were placed on the injured list. They will be out 3-5 weeks.
Tuesday’s home game against Dallas will be Jurco’s first NHL game since April.
“For sure it’s been frustrating, anybody who would be in my shoes would feel the same way,” Jurco said after Monday’s practice. “Sometimes it just wouldn’t go the way I wanted. But like I said many times, I have to fight for my spot on the team and I’ve done a real good job after surgery to get ready.”
Jurco’s back was troubling him all last season and he decided on surgery after it flared up last summer.
“I could still play (in the past) with it but it was the worst for me when I was sitting on the bench all the time,” Jurco said. “I had to sometimes get up and walk to stretch it so it was better – and I was sitting a lot on the bench for the last couple of years so it was really tough.
“I’m glad it’s (the pain) gone and I’m excited for a fresh start.”
Jurco has dropped about 13 pounds – from 205 to 192 – after trying to get bigger and stronger the last couple seasons.
“I felt like I wasn’t as quick as I used to be,” Jurco said. “I feel quicker out there and full of energy.”
Blashill had Jurco on the fourth line with Drew Miller and Riley Sheahan at Monday’s practice.
“I’m excited for Tomas, he’s put himself in a good spot,” Blashill said. “He’s had this issue (back) for a couple of years and he took care of it and now he’s at a body weight he feels really comfortable with.
“I told him I’d have lots of patience with him and he’s not going to get the minutes early; we’ll work him into it. But he’s somebody who can help our lineup.”
As for the question of whether Jurco was brought up too early three seasons ago and would have benefitted from more time in Grand Rapids, Blashill feels Jurco has learned at the NHL level and it’s time to move forward.
“You can come up too early, whether it’s him (Jurco) or somebody else. You want to be as ready as possible when you face the greatest test of your life, which is the NHL,” Blashill said. “That’s part of the reason Ken (general manager Ken Holland) has shown great patience and why he’s had so much success with guys ultimately having success at this level because they came up as ready as possible.
“He (Jurco) was a little bit different arc. He came up quicker, and sometimes when you go through struggles in this league that you would have gone through in the American League, you have to learn lessons, and it’s a hard league to learn lessons.”
Blashill has six healthy defensemen and said there would be no more players promoted from Grand Rapids until later in the week, when the Red Wings go on the road.
… Goaltender Petr Mrazek will get the start against Dallas.
… As for the Stars, the Red Wings will need to defend against one of the more offensively explosive teams in the league.
“They’re a high-octane team,” Blashill said. “If you give them opportunities on a line rush, some teams can really make you pay and they’re one of the best at making you pay.”
Stars at Red Wings
Faceoff: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m., Joe Louis Arena
TV / radio: Fox Sports Detroit / 97.1 FM
Outlook: Only two teams Monday had allowed more goals than the 72 Dallas had allowed. ... The Stars (9-8-5, 23 points) are in the thick of the Western Conference playoff chase and possess scoring threats in C Tyler Seguin (22 points) and LW Jamie Benn (17 points). Former Red Wing RW Patrick Eaves leads with nine goals.