Jurco, 21, has been a fairly productive player for the Wings since making his NHL debut in mid-December. The 35th overall pick at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft has five goals and 10 points in 26 games, and was averaging over 13 minutes per night prior to getting hurt.
It looks as though Jurco will slot into a top-six forward spot, playing with David Legwand and Johan Franzen. That bumps Daniel Alfredsson down to the third line, with Darren Helm and Joakim Andersson.
Poll: Which has been the most disappointing Canadian team?
If the NHL playoffs started today, the Montreal Canadiens would be the only Canadian team to qualify.
By itself, that’s a story. There are seven teams from Canada in the league, and it’s not like they’re at a huge financial disadvantage compared to their American brethren. Only the Ottawa Senators have what might be deemed attendance issues. The rest play in front of full houses, and the tickets aren’t cheap.
On top of that is the fact a Canadian team hasn’t won the Stanley Cup since 1993. Which is, frankly, one of the more amazing droughts in pro sports. Five times since 1993 a Canadian team has been to the Cup final, and five times it’s lost. And…AND…four times it’s lost in seven games, including twice by the Canucks, a team that’s never won the Cup.
Which brings us to the poll. We’re not going to include Montreal, for obvious reasons. And we’re also not going to include Calgary, because a vote for the Flames — a team nobody expected anything from this season — would just be downright wrong.
So here are the five candidates:
Ottawa — Lost the face of the franchise, Daniel Alfredsson, to Detroit over money, and also because he thought the Wings had a better chance to win. The Sens have been absolutely dreadful since the Olympic break and would need an absolute miracle to make the playoffs.
Winnipeg — Showed signs of life when Claude Noel was fired and replaced by Paul Maurice. Alas, the Jets have since gone back into a slumber, winning just twice in their last 11 games. The things is, this team is far from bereft of talent. If it played in a big Canadian market, its failures would get a lot more attention.
Vancouver — On pace to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008. We’re not going to list all the things that have contributed to the Canucks’ nightmarish season, but if we had to pick a low point, it would probably be allowing seven third-period goals to the Islanders…at home…in a must-win game…that they led 3-0 after two periods. Because you really hate to do that.
Toronto — The Leafs are still alive in the playoff race, but we had to include them in the poll because they’re on the verge of their third epic choke job in the last three seasons. In 2011-12, it was a regular-season collapse. Last year, the collapse came in Game 7 of the first round. Even if they do manage to sneak in to the postseason, serious concerns will remain about a team that gives up more shots than any in the league and seems to wilt under the pressure of playing in Toronto.
Edmonton — This was supposed to be the season the Oilers — featuring three first overall picks — made a legitimate run at the playoffs. Instead, they’ll probably finish ahead of only one team, the Buffalo Sabres. The sight of fans throwing jerseys on the ice hasn’t helped the situation. Nor did the water fight between the star player and rookie coach.
Much of that improvement in Detroit’s odds can be attributed to Toronto’s free-fall, with a slight offset courtesy the Washington Capitals, who’ve given the Wings another team to worry about in the race.
On Tuesday, Detroit lost a pivotal game in Columbus, controversially falling 4-2 to the Jackets, the other team in the hunt for the pair of wild-card spots.
Tonight, the Wings are at home to Montreal. Saturday, they’re in Toronto to play the Leafs in what should be the biggest game of the season for both teams, to that point at least.
The rest of Detroit’s schedule is a bit of a mixed bag, with tough contests against Boston, Pittsburgh and St. Louis, but also a pair of games against the NHL-worst Sabres.
Everyone knows what’s on the line for the Wings — they’ve made the playoffs 22 straight times, by far the longest current streak in the NHL. But it’s more than history at stake. If Detroit can get into the playoffs, it could very conceivably do some damage as it gets healthier and healthier. Pavel Datsyuk should be back soon, and it sounds like Henrik Zetterberg could be back for the second round, if the Wings get there.
Add those two stars to a corps of forwards that already includes veterans Daniel Alfredsson, Johan Franzen and David Legwand, plus youngsters Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar, and, well, that’s a pretty formidable corps of forwards, wouldn’t you say?
At this point, the Wings would probably take the playoffs any way they can get them; however, one would think they’d stand a better chance against their old Stanley Cup Final foes, the ailing Pittsburgh Penguins, than the Boston Bruins. In which case, beating out Columbus, Toronto, and Washington to snare the first wild-card spot may behoove them.
Report: No hearing scheduled for Legwand butt-ending Malkin
Detroit Red Wings forward David Legwand may be able to breathe a little easier today.
Ansar Khan of Mlive.com reports Legwand does not have a hearing scheduled with the NHL following his butt-ending of Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin during last night’s game.
Legwand used the end of his stick to jab Malkin in the midsection late in the third period of the Red Wings’ 5-4 overtime win against the Penguins. Malkin went down on the ice in pain and Legwand was assessed a five-minute for butt-ending and a game misconduct.
The Penguins didn’t score on the major power play and Daniel Alfredsson’s goal with 0.4 seconds left in overtime gave the Wings the victory. The best news for Detroit out of all of this, however, is that they won’t lose yet another center for a game or more out of this.
People throw out terms like “finding ways to win” a lot in sports, but the Detroit Red Wings are making it difficult to avoid cliches as they keep scrapping their way to playoff contention despite some serious obstacles. Thursday’s 5-4 OT win against the Pittsburgh Penguins captured much of that spirit (with maybe a few extra dashes of oddness).
Let’s just review some of the weird/bad/challenging things the Red Wings faced and ultimately overcame:
An injury-depleted team saw more than one lead evaporate; Craig Adams’ 4-4 goal couldn’t have felt good.
Neal wasn’t the only important forward to take a shaky penalty. David Legwand received a five-minute major and game misconduct for butt ending Evgeni Malkin in the final minutes of the third. Remarkably, the Red Wings killed off that five-minute power play.
The Red Wings then won the game with fractions of a second left thanks to a bizarre Daniel Alfredsson goal:
The Red Wings leave themselves in an increasingly promising situation. While they trail wild card teams Toronto and the New York Rangers as well as top bubble team Washington, they have at least two games in hand on each of those teams.
They have some big games remaining, including one more contest against the Maple Leafs (at Toronto on March 29) and the Columbus Blue Jackets (at Nationwide Arena on March 25). The odds still seem stacked against Detroit in some ways, yet they keep proving that they won’t be an easy out.