For the first time in two months, Tyler Bertuzzi is on the road with the Detroit Red Wings.
When he’ll be on the ice with them is harder to forecast, but he’s running out of time.
The Wings’ grittiest forward hasn’t played since leaving a game Jan. 30 with a sore back. There was no indication then that Bertuzzi might miss the rest of the season, but that’s a realistic outcome now that there are only five weeks left. While he accompanied the team to Florida for a four-game stand, the closest Bertuzzi has come to a team activity is an optional skate.
“He’s skated the last few days, so that’s some progress,” coach Jeff Blashill said Thursday. “Where that goes from here, I just don’t know. It totally depends on how it constantly feels after workouts, after skates. He’s had some moments where we thought he was inching closer and then he took steps backwards.
“The last week, he seems to be progressing. What that means, I don’t know. He’s been a long time out, so we are starting to run out of runway here.”
Blashill didn’t sound optimistic, repeatedly referring to Bertuzzi’s progress as “inching closer” and saying he’s not close to practicing.
“Once he hits his first practice, he’d be at least a week away,” Blashill said. “So you can do the math from there. I don’t even know when that first practice would be. But he’s skated three out of last four days, we’ll take that as a positive.”
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Bertuzzi led the team with five goals and was tied with Dylan Larkin for seven points in nine games when he left after the second period of the home contest against the Panthers. Filip Zadina has played in Bertuzzi’s spot on the top line next to Larkin, and Michael Rasmussen has helped fill the net-front role on power plays.
“Those young guys have done a good job of showing well and developing well during that time,” Blashill said. “Is that because of Bert’s absence, I can’t say that. But certainly those guys are headed in the right direction.”
Contact Helene St. James at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.