The Detroit Red Wings are running into some injury problems and training camp, let alone the regular season, hasn't even started.
In the same week that it was announced defenseman Niklas Kronwall is still battling a knee injury and can’t compete at the World Cup and that prospect Vili Saarijarvi will miss three months following wrist surgery, the Red Wings have also announced that winger Tomas Jurco may not be ready to go come opening night.
According to MLive.com’s Ansar Khan, Red Wings GM Ken Holland has confirmed that Jurco, 23, injured his back while training in Slovakia and there are concerns about his ability to hit the ice in time for training camp, the pre-season and even the start of the regular season.
"He needs 4-6 weeks of rest, then start slow. Need to see how he feels,” Holland said, per Khan. "Don't think he'll be on the ice playing in 4-6 weeks. Not sure he'll be ready to open the season. Won't know for another month down the road.”
As much as that’s a blow for the bottom-six of the Red Wings, it’s also a significant problem for Jurco, who was going to have to really push for a spot higher on the roster this coming campaign after a difficult season that saw him fall out of favor and barely play in Detroit.
Jurco only saw action in 44 games this past season, though that’s not due to injury. He was out for two games with an upper-body ailment, but Jurco was often a healthy scratch when the Red Wings needed to make roster decisions. In fact, in the first 26 games of the campaign, Jurco played five times. He was a healthy scratch for the other 21 outings.
Making matters worse is that when Jurco did see the ice, he didn’t often actually get into the action. He averaged 9:10 of ice time per game, didn’t get a single second of ice time during the post-season and it showed in his production, which suffered greatly this past season. After posting three goals and 18 points in 63 games during the 2014-15 season, Jurco managed just four goals and six points in 2015-16.
If getting into the lineup and producing was tough for Jurco this past season, though, it’s only going to get more difficult. The Red Wings added wingers Thomas Vanek and Steve Ott during free agency and youngsters Andreas Athanasiou, Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi could push for depth spots on the roster this coming season.
Given his injury and logjam on the wing, Jurco could be the odd-man out once the dust settles in training camp. That could mean he's unfortunately left to ply his trade with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins once again.
Want more in-depth features and expert analysis on the game you love? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.