Detroit – Preparing for two vital games this week, the Red Wings received bad news on the injury front.
They’ll be without forward Dylan Larkin (upper body) for games against Boston on Tuesday and Toronto on Wednesday, while Thomas Vanek (lower body) is out for the Boston game, but coach Jeff Blashill wouldn’t rule Vanek unavailable against Toronto.
The news comes after the return of Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm after lengthy stays on the injured list.
“It’s part of the league, certainly this year with the condensed schedule it plays a bigger factor even,” Blashill said of the injury situation. “But in the end, I’m not worried about it. We’ll have 20 guys who are dressed who are good enough to win a game in Boston and we have to execute.”
Vanek was hit by an Andreas Athanasiou shot late in the first period of Sunday’s 1-0 overtime loss against the New York Rangers.
Vanek hobbled to the bench and down the hallway to the locker room and did not return to the game.
Larkin was hurt late in the game, according to Blashill.
So with Vanek and Larkin not playing, who will take their place?
For sure, Tomas Jurco.
Blashill said Jurco will re-enter the lineup after being a healthy scratch for the last nine games. Jurco has no points in 11 games this season, with a minus-3 plus-minus rating.
Forward talks about looking for good luck to stay in the lineup.
“I’m just going to play my game,” Jurco said. “All I need is some lucky bounces. I need to score. Playing good isn’t good enough for me, because it doesn’t make my stay in the lineup. I need a lucky bounce or something to go my way to help me get some points.”
Blashill wants to see Jurco establish his skating, then everything else should fall into place.
“Jurcs is a really good hockey player,” Blashill said. “Jurcs can play in the NHL and be a good player in the NHL. When Jurcs plays his best hockey, he’s skating on the forecheck, skating on the track and he allows his skill to do the rest.
“He’s had opportunities to score this year and it hasn’t gone in. If he keeps getting those opportunities, he’ll score eventually. He’s got that kind of talent.”
The other forward spot will be filled by either Drew Miller or Steve Ott.
Miller cleared waivers Monday – no other team claimed him after he was waived Sunday – and was assigned to Grand Rapids Monday, per collective bargaining rules. Miller is expected to rejoin the Red Wings in time for Tuesday's game.
The Red Wings could also activate Steve Ott (shoulder), who has missed the last five games but practiced Monday and appears close to returning.
Ott hurt the shoulder in a fight with Toronto’s Matt Martin during the Centennial Classic on Jan. 1.
“It’s getting better,” Ott said. “I’ve been trying to practice hard and keep my legs going. I’m going through the soreness issue right now, but I’m getting close and it’s a lot better.”
Captain talks about the importance of the next two games against Boston and Toronto.
The injuries come at an unfortunate time, given the importance of these next two games against teams that are ahead of the Red Wings in the division.
“They’re big games, division games against teams that we’re chasing,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “We know going down the stretch there’s going to be a lot of these games, which is a good thing for us. If we win these games, we’re gaining ground.”
Said Blashill: “There’s no question there are teams we’re trying to jump and in order to jump teams, you have to beat them at some point, so we have to find a way to do that.”
Red Wings at Bruins
Faceoff: 7 p.m. Tuesday, TD Garden, Boston
Outlook: Boston (23-21-6, 52 points) is 3-5-2 over its last 10 games and sinking badly…The Red Wings rallied from two three-goal deficits to defeat the Bruins, 6-5, last week in a shootout....Boston is under .500 (10-12-0) at home.