08/31/2011 6:21 AM
Aug. 31, 2011
DETROIT -- Jan Mursak has the two key ingredients every good energy player needs: speed and grit.
He is a great skater who competes hard and gets his nose dirty by going to the hard areas of the ice, namely the front of the net.
Mursak made a good impression on the Detroit Red Wings during 19 games as an injury replacement in 2010-11. This season, he’ll be on the roster from the start of the season, competing for a spot in the lineup.
"His speed stands out. He can fly. He’s fun to watch," teammate Patrick Eaves said. "The games I’ve seen him play he’s done a really good job. He creates energy and has a big shot. And he’s not afraid to throw his body around.
"It’s hard to crack this lineup. You have to get a break and just play to the best of your abilities and not worry about other things."
Mursak, 23, signed a two-year, one-way deal in February. He is out of minor-league options following three seasons with the Grand Rapids Griffins, so he can’t be sent down without going through waivers, something the club wouldn’t risk.
But Mursak (5-foot-11, 192 pounds) isn’t taking his roster spot for granted.
"I hope I’ll make the first team, I hope I’ll be in Detroit (this) season," Mursak said. "I hope I’ll get a lot of ice time. I’m not expecting a lot, but there will be injuries and hopefully I can jump in and play good."
After skating for three weeks at home in Slovenia, Mursak was among a handful of players working out at City Ice Arena on Monday and Tuesday in preparation for training camp. He’s so anxious to get started that he’s making a daily commute from Saginaw, where he played junior hockey for the Spirit and his girlfriend resides.
"It’s my fifth year to go to camp, I’m not nervous anymore," Mursak said. "I know how I have to play and what I have to show.
"I think they were happy with what I showed last year. They told me what they wanted to see from me, to bring speed and energy, play good in the defensive zone. I’m prepared to do that."
He learned a lot about what it takes to play in the NHL last season.
"From game to game, I think I was getting better and better and more comfortable," Mursak said. "In the beginning it was a little tough, I was a little nervous, but then I relaxed, especially after I scored that goal (his only point of the season, Jan. 10 at Colorado), I felt really comfortable on the ice."
Mursak has some raw offensive ability, including a good shot, but wasn’t a big scorer in juniors or the AHL. That’s why he appears destined for a third- or fourth-line role in the NHL.
He had 24 goals and 42 points in 79 games during a breakout season with Grand Rapids in 2009-10. He had 13 goals and 35 points in 54 games with the Griffins last season.
He has good penalty-killing instincts and might get an opportunity in that role.
Mursak’s speed -- he might be the team’s second-fastest skater, behind Darren Helm -- is his best asset.
"He brings tons of speed and energy," Red Wings forward Drew Miller said. "That’s what you expect out of your young guys. I think he’s a little faster than most. That’s key for him."
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