Tomas Jurco traveled a long, difficult road to continue his playing career.
He was rewarded for his effort Friday.
The oft-injured forward played his first game in 14 months and scored the first goal in the Silver Knights’ 3-1 victory at Bakersfield.
“It was nice to get one early,” Jurco said. “It’s been awhile since I played last game, so of course it wasn’t my personal best game. But I think it was pretty good considering I haven’t played for a long time.”
Jurco was a second-round pick by Detroit in 2011 and produced 22 goals and 30 assists in 213 NHL games with three teams. But the native of Kosice, Slovakia, has been plagued for much of his career by back trouble and had two surgeries.
Jurco won the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup title with Charlotte in 2019 and signed with the Edmonton Oilers before last season.
But he struggled to make an impact in the NHL and was sent to the minors. In December 2019, Jurco underwent hip surgery that sidelined him for the remainder of the season.
The Golden Knights took a flier on the 28-year-old, signing him to a one-year contract. Jurco made the taxi squad out of training camp, but missed more than two weeks after his back flared up, according to coach Pete DeBoer.
He was reassigned Wednesday to the Silver Knights, and Friday was his first game at any level since Dec. 11, 2019.
On his second shift, Jurco scooped a rebound and deposited a backhand during a Silver Knights’ power play. He tied for the team lead with four shots on goal.
“It’s going to take some time to be even more confident, but the good thing is they have the same systems as up in Vegas so you don’t really have to adjust too much,” Jurco said. “And the guys are a good group of people, so they’re making it easier for me.”
Decision on Krebs
The announcement that the junior Western Hockey League was granted approval for its East Division teams to play games in the hub city of Regina, Saskatchewan, could affect the status of forward Peyton Krebs.
According to the player development agreement between the NHL and the three Canadian junior leagues, Krebs must be returned to his junior team if he is not on the NHL roster. He is ineligible to be on the Golden Knights’ taxi squad.
For now, Krebs is permitted to play in the AHL while his junior team remains on hiatus, and the 2019 first-round pick had four points in his first three games.
But unless the NHL amends the agreement this week because not all junior leagues are back playing, the Knights must decide soon whether to return Krebs to his junior team.
WHL players will begin quarantining Feb. 20 and report to the hub Feb. 27. The 24-game regular season is expected to begin March 12.
Defenseman Kaedan Korczak, who made his pro debut Friday, is in a similar situation, except his junior team is located in British Columbia. The WHL is waiting approval from the province’s health officials before it can set a start date for that division’s teams.
Danny O’Regan’s offensive skill made him the centerpiece of the trade that sent Evander Kane from Buffalo to San Jose in 2018.
That scoring touch faded a bit last season, but O’Regan has regained it with the Silver Knights.
The forward was tied for the league lead with six points (two goals, four assists) after posting two helpers in Friday’s victory. He set up Ryan Murphy for the go-ahead goal in the third period.
“Danny puts himself in really good positions offensively because he sees the game really well,” coach Manny Viveiros said. “He’s a real smart player. He makes his line and the players he plays with better all the time.”
Tomas Jurco file
Birthplace: Kosice, Slovakia
Draft: Second round (No. 35 overall) by the Detroit Red Wings in 2011
2019-20 stats: No goals, two assists in 12 games with Edmonton