- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A year ago, Milan Jurcina was still trying to find his way in the NHL.

A combination of injuries and inconsistent ice time kept him from realizing his potential with the Boston Bruins, but a midseason trade to the Washington Capitals changed the course of his career.

“It was a pretty crazy year for me,” said Jurcina, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound defenseman from Slovakia. “During training camp, I got hurt a little bit. At the beginning of the season, I missed seven or eight games, and then I continue on playing five minutes, seven minutes, 10 minutes with Boston. It really isn’t great for your confidence as a player.”

Jurcina was reunited on the Caps with Shaone Morrisonn, with whom he had been paired when they played for Providence in the American Hockey League. They clicked almost immediately as a defense-first shutdown pair and quickly earned coach Glen Hanlon’s trust.

After averaging less than 11 minutes a game in 40 contests with the Bruins, Jurcina’s ice time more than doubled in 30 games with the Caps. He also had two goals and nine points in Washington after registering only three points with Boston.

“I was really happy because I know Shaone Morrisonn,” said Jurcina, 24. “He is a great guy, and he really helped me out a lot here. As soon I got to this dressing room, I felt comfortable, and when we stepped on the ice, Mo and I had really good chemistry.”

Jurcina became a hit with the fans because of his big hits on the ice, and he is popular with other players because of his jovial personality.

Not only did his career blossom with the Caps, he earned a new nickname in the process.

“Here it is ‘Juice,’ so I just switched to Juice, but back in Boston it was ‘Jerky,’ ” Morrisonn said. “You’ve just got to look at him, and that’s why everyone calls him the Juice.”

Morrisonn was referring to Jurcina’s physique, which conservatively could be described as well-crafted. He doesn’t do a lot of maximum-effort weightlifting, focusing instead on repetition.

“I just grow. I eat a lot,” Jurcina said. “No, at home in Slovakia, we don’t have the ice after the season ends. … There is nothing to do but train, train, train for three months every day, two or three times a day, so your body is going to change.”

Jurcina and Morrisonn have not shared much time on the ice in this preseason. Hanlon and his staff have spent the entire camp mixing and matching the defensemen, trying to identify pairs that mesh and ones that don’t.

There is a chance they won’t start the season together. Because of additions, this team wants a more offensive approach. One way to accomplish that would be to pair each with a more offensive-oriented guy, such as Tom Poti, Brian Pothier, Mike Green or Josef Boumedienne.

Still, there was a point in the game Saturday night at Tampa Bay at which Hanlon put them back together again — something that always will be a viable backup plan.

“It was nice to play with him,” Morrisonn said. “It took us maybe two or three shifts to get it back. It makes it an easy game out there because we both know each other, and we know where we’re going to be on the ice.

“With me and Juice, they don’t want us to get too far out of our comfort zone. We’ve got a job to do, and they want us to do that job. If we can be more consistent every night with shutting the other team’s top lines down, I think they’ll be happy with that.”

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