DETROIT – Tomas Jurco might be out of the Red Wings’ lineup longer than first thought.
“It’s hard to say right now,” said Jurco, who confirmed Thursday that he suffered a fractured rib in Tuesday’s 4-1 loss at Columbus.
“We'll see how quick it's gonna heal,” he said. “It might be 10 days, it might be a month. I'm a young guy so hopefully it's gonna heal a little quicker.”
Jurco was injured when he was cross checked midway through the second period by Blue Jackets’ Blake Comeau. On Wednesday, the NHL’s department of player safety levied a two-game suspension on Comeau for his illegal hit to the head of Wings defenseman Brendan Smith in the first period.
But Jurco wasn’t ready to call the hit on him a cheap shot.
“It happened too quick. I didn't see him coming. I kind of reached for the puck and I opened up my side and he cross-checked me,” Jurco said. “I don't know if it was dirty. If referee didn't call it, I guess it was clean. I don't want to comment if it was a bad call or something.”
Jurco has been a pleasant surprise this season, producing five goals and 10 points in 26 games with the Red Wings. He had 13 goals and 32 points for Grand Rapids in 32 AHL games.
Obviously disgusted with the team’s injury situation, coach Mike Babcock prefers to focus on the players that he has available for the lineup, rather than discuss those not at his disposal.
“No sense in worrying about them, we have to win a game,” Babcock said. “That’s the way I look at it. When I looked in the room there were five centermen working out so that must mean we have nine here because there were four on the ice. What are you going to do? No sense worrying about it. It’s part of the business, we have to suck it up and find a way to win.”
Jurco is the latest in a long line of injuries for the Red Wings, who are down five centers, including Pavel Datsyuk (knee), Darren Helm (upper body) and Stephen Weiss (sports hernia), who are day to day. Forwards Daniel Cleary (knee) and Mikael Samuelsson (shoulder) and backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson (groin) are also day to day, while captain Henrik Zetterberg (back) and center Joakim Andersson (broken foot) are out.
ALFREDSSON EXCUSED: Thursday morning, the Red Wings were back on the ice after they were given Wednesday off. However, forward Daniel Alfredsson received an second straight day to handle an immigration issue, Babcock said.
Alfredsson ranks third on the Red Wings in assists (23) and points (37), and fourth in shots on goal (120). He's expected to skate with Todd Bertuzzi and rookie center Luke Glendening on the team's third line Friday.
With the call up of Teemu Pulkkinen, who replaces Jurco in the lineup, the Wings' other line combinations in Thursday's practice were Justin Abdelkader, David Legwand and Johan Franzen; Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Tatar; and Drew Miller, Cory Emmerton and Pulkkinen.
HOWARD’S RETURN: After missing Tuesday’s game in Columbus with the flu, goalie Jimmy Howard will start Friday against Edmonton at Joe Louis Arena.
If the Red Wings are to extend their playoff streak to 23 straight seasons, strong goaltending by Howard, Jonas Gustavsson and Petr Mrazek will be paramount, especially since the offense has been inconsistent again. Since February, Detroit has scored four or more goals just twice.
“We got to win games. There’s nothing else you can say,” said Howard who has a 3-1-1 record with a 2.50 goals-against average in his last five home starts. “I think a lot of us are sick and tired of talking about it and that’s what it seems like we’ve been doing lately, just talking about it. We got to go out there and do it.”
The Red Wings might be catching the Oilers at a good time as they will be playing their third in four night and second straight.
“It doesn’t matter who you’re playing. You can’t take a night off,” Howard said. “In today’s day and age in the NHL anyone can beat anyone on any given night. You have to get ready and prepared the same way no matter who you’re playing.”
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose
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