Jan. 11, 2012
Over the past two weeks, Jan Mursak has found his “hockey rhythm” again. The 23-year-old forward was assigned to Grand Rapids by the Red Wings on Dec. 28 to undergo a conditioning stint – the final step in his recovery from a freak, preseason injury.
After seeing Mursak feature in 19 games for the Red Wings last season, coupled with the glowing reviews he received from the organization’s brass during the team’s training camp, many expected to see the Maribor, Slovenia, native don the Winged Wheel for his first full NHL season in 2011-12. It was not to be, however, as Mursak fractured his left ankle when he careened into the end boards in a preseason game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Sept. 25.
“It was pretty bad,” recollected Mursak. “Right when I fell, I knew it was not good because I came at full speed down on the ice. I thought I blew my knee out too because when I turned my ankle it turned my knee also. It turned out that the knee was just kind of bruised and not serious.”
Instead of lamenting the untimely layoff, Mursak saw a little bit of luck in an otherwise horribly unlucky accident. “That’s my first big injury so, it was kind of hard on me at the beginning but, everything that happens is good for something else,” he said.
For Mursak, that “something else” was the opportunity to improve his overall strength. With the help of Detroit’s training staff and a fearsome gym regimen, he set about making the most of his time on injured reserve.
“When the guys were playing, I was just working super hard on the things I was able to,” Mursak said. “All the time I was hurt, I was working pretty hard in the gym, and I tried to stay in shape as much as I could. But there’s a difference between gym shape and hockey shape so, it took me a few games to get back in the hockey rhythm.”
After putting up 35 points (13-22 – 35) in 54 games for the Griffins a season ago, Mursak posted one assist and a minus-three rating in the first five games of his conditioning stint with Grand Rapids.
Though his stat sheet does not read the way he would like this season, Mursak has been pleased with the progress he’s made in his first handful of competitive games in three months.
"For me to get back to being comfortable on the ice again, it helped me a lot,” Mursak said. “I wish I would produce a little bit more, but the chances are there, and I know sooner or later it’ll start going in.”
Still able to skate with the speed that makes him such an eye-catching player, Mursak has enjoyed his return to action while keeping in mind his ultimate goal for the remainder of a season he’s determined not to lose.
“Skating really well is the most important thing,” he said. “The ankle doesn’t bother me at all anymore; there’s no pain. Hopefully when I go back to Detroit, I can keep playing well and stay in the lineup for the rest of the season.”
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