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Jurco is making adjustments to pro game

For Griffins' forward Comerica Park game will be his first outdoors

Monday, 12.30.2013 / 12:00 PM ET / News
By Andrea Nelson  - Editorial Assistant | DetroitRedWings.com
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Jurco is making adjustments to pro game
Coach Jeff Blashill believes Tomas Jurco (28) has been one of his team's top offensive stalwarts, right up with the former Griffin Gustav Nyquist. (Photo courtesy of the Grand Rapids Griffins)

Many hockey players look back on their childhood with fond memories of skating outdoors, playing pond hockey on any suitable frozen body of water until the sun set.

Tomas Jurco isn’t one of them, which is why the American Hockey League matchup against the Toronto Marlies at the SiriusXM Hockeytown Winter Festival is going to be extra special for the Griffins’ star forward.

“I’m really excited, it’s the first time for me to play outdoor game and for sure it’s going to be something special, something I might never experience again in my life,” Jurco said. “It’s going to be still just a game and everybody will want to win but I think everybody will enjoy it and it’s going to be fun.”

After tallying 28 points in 74 regular-season games last season on the 2013 Calder Cup championship team, Jurco has already recorded 25 points through 24 games this year, an improvement coach Jeff Blashill attributes to the forward’s difficult but instructive transition to the AHL.

“The first half of last year was a bit of a struggle for him,” Blashill said. “He came in as a really highly touted prospect but in my mind had to really learn how to play the pro game and as a result he had a tough transition. I would say of those points that he scored, the majority of those would have been the second half. I would also say probably opportunity. He’s been given more opportunity this year than he was at the beginning of last year.”

Jurco also believes improving his defensive game and strength have helped him earn the trust of the coaching staff, and in turn, more ice time.

“I’ve been working on my defensive side since Coach, you know he didn’t play me a lot at first for a couple of reasons,” Jurco said. “One of them was he didn’t trust me as much defensively because I wasn’t really good so I tried to work on that and I think I’m way better at it right now. I was trying to be stronger with the puck and win more puck battles so those are two things I think I improved on since last year.”

The Kosice, Slovakia, native has taken advantage of the increased ice time he’s earned, ranked No. 9 in the AHL in scoring at the start of December with 11 goals and 14 assists, and has developed into one of the team’s top offensive threats over the past year.

“Tomas has been from about the midpoint of last season through where we currently stand, he’s been one of our offensive players including the time that he spent when (Tomas) Tatar and (Gustav) Nyquist and the likes were down here, he’s been right with those guys as one of our top offensive guys,” Blashill said. “He’s got a lot of both playmaking ability and the ability to score, he skates well, he’s got good size and at times he uses that size for physicality as well. He so far this season has been our most consistent offensive performer and he’s someone we lean on quite a bit.”

The Griffins leaned on Jurco in the team’s first meeting with Toronto this season, as the forward recorded one goal and one assist in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Marlies. Although he hopes the rematch in his first outdoor game will end in favor of the Griffins, Jurco knows it will be a great competition and experience for everyone involved, regardless of the outcome.

“They’re a really good team, they have good team last year and they have a pretty good team this year,” Jurco said. “It’s always hard to play against Marlies and I know every game at this level is hard but like I said they’re good and it’s going to be a really good game even for fans to watch.”

Many members of Detroit’s minor league affiliate have never had the opportunity to participate in an outdoor game of this magnitude, and plan on enjoying every minute of the festivities.

“We’re going to take the advice of many, many people that have been part of it in the Wings’ organization and just really enjoy it,” Blashill said. “We’re going to have a skate the night before that we’re going to enjoy with our families, we’re going really enjoy the time that we have and when the puck drops try to win a hockey game against a real good Toronto Marlies team.”

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 51 38 9 4 166 114 80
2 FLA 53 31 16 6 143 118 68
3 NYR 53 30 18 5 150 135 65
4 TBL 52 29 19 4 138 123 62
5 BOS 52 28 18 6 151 137 62
6 DET 53 27 18 8 133 131 62
7 PIT 52 27 18 7 138 132 61
8 NYI 51 27 18 6 143 127 60
9 NJD 54 26 21 7 120 122 59
10 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
11 MTL 54 26 24 4 143 143 56
12 OTT 54 25 23 6 153 166 56
13 PHI 51 23 19 9 121 133 55
14 BUF 53 21 26 6 120 139 48
15 TOR 51 19 23 9 117 140 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
D. Larkin 52 18 20 26 38
H. Zetterberg 53 9 27 3 36
T. Tatar 52 16 17 -1 33
G. Nyquist 53 14 15 -2 29
P. Datsyuk 38 8 20 12 28
J. Abdelkader 53 14 13 -3 27
M. Green 46 4 17 -7 21
N. Kronwall 45 3 14 -10 17
B. Richards 39 5 11 7 16
D. DeKeyser 49 6 8 12 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Mrazek 20 10 4 .933 1.97
J. Howard 7 8 4 .904 2.89