“Jurcs is one of those guys that’s in a spot and he knows it,” Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said after the second day of training camp in Traverse City. “He’s had an opportunity to play up here for a year and a half, basically.
“When he left us in Grand Rapids, my second year, he was a point per game in the league,” Blashill continued. “He was starting to evolve into a real go-to player. I think the first couple of years he survived and I think he’d like to take that next step. But in order to do that, he has to earn that ice time. He knows that.”
Blashill appears to be giving Jurco ample opportunity to show if he’s an NHL player or not, slotting him on a line with Brad Richards and Tomas Tatar after Darren Helm was injured on Friday.
“For now, then probably (Sunday) and maybe the red and white game,” Blashill said when asked if that’s where he plans to keep Jurco.
Jurco struggled mightily last season in Detroit.
Despite playing in 27 more regular season games than he did his first season, he scored five fewer goals. Jurco had three goals and 15 assists last season, compared to eight goals and seven assists in the 2013-14 campaign.
While in Grand Rapids, Juro had 27 goals and 47 assists in 106 games over two seasons.
“He’s got real good speed,” Blashill said. “He’s got a good skill set. He’s got size. So those are three real good assets. I hope he can continue and play like he did (Saturday).”
Blashill took over behind the bench for Mike Babcock, who had coached the Wings for the past 10 season.
“Providing more offense is the main thing for me,” Jurco said in the days leading up to training camp. “I’ve been working hard all summer, to get stronger, faster, so I think it’s going to help me.
“I think (confidence) was one of the biggest factors for me,” Jurco added. “It was hard for me to not be scoring as much as I was used to before and not playing as much, so of course when you do that for a few months it’s hard to keep your confidence high. Of course it was one of the factors, but it’s a new season and I’m ready for it.”
Jurco, who missed eight games last season with a back injury, went 39 games without a goal a year ago.
Despite his struggles he was only a healthy scratch in five games with Babcock, who used Jurco more in a grinding role.
“I think Blash knows what kind of player I was before,” Jurco said. “He had a chance to see it, so he knows I can be a different player, too. I’m not saying he’s going to put me on the power play and expects me to score 30 goals, but I think he wants me to work hard and work my way up to maybe first three lines so I can provide offense. It’s going to be up to me. Just the good thing is Blash knows I can do it.”