Usually injury news isn’t particularly exciting during a long NHL season, as injuries are a way of life for any team during the long season.
But in this case it was noteworthy, considering who it was.
Goaltender Jonathan Bernier and forward Tyler Bertuzzi are both beginning to skate. They’re both with the team on this current Florida trip, inching toward a return to the lineup.
More so, Bernier, said coach Jeff Blashill after Thursday’s morning skate. Bernier participated in Thursday’s morning skate, as he steadily progresses from a lower body injury.
“He’s inching closer,” Blashill said. “We practice tomorrow and we’ll see how he does with that.”
If Bernier can return soon, and show he is healthy after suffering an injury March 18 against Dallas, it would make for an intriguing situation heading into the April 12 trade deadline.
Bernier, 32, has been among the better goalies in the NHL for over a calendar year with impressive consistency, despite playing for one of the weaker defensive teams in the league.
Bernier, an unrestricted free agent this summer, is above .500 this season (8-6-0), with a 2.78 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see general manager Steve Yzerman re-sign Bernier, who has settled into the starting role with the Wings. The team doesn’t have a clear cut option to replace Bernier currently within the organization’s depth chart.
The Wings signed free agent goaltender Thomas Greiss last off-season, hoping to form a competitive, consistent combination.
But Greiss (2-14-4, 3.42 GAA, .888 SVS) has struggled mightily, with Bernier further establishing himself as the No. 1 option.
Still, with the Wings’ rebuild still going strong, the return from another team looking to upgrade their goaltending could be significant if Bernier would be available.
It could be an offer Yzerman may not be able to refuse.
There are several Stanley Cup contenders, notably Colorado, Washington, maybe Toronto or Philadelphia, encountering goaltending injuries and could very well use a steady veteran such as Bernier.
As for Bertuzzi, who hasn’t played since Jan. 30, and has only played nine games this season with an undisclosed injury (speculated to be a back ailment), the news of his skating was positive but tempered.
Bertuzzi has skated for three of the last four days, which is undeniably good news.
“That’s a positive,” said Blashill, of Bertuzzi being on the ice fairly regularly. “That’s some progress and we’ll see where that goes from here. He’s inching closer though not close to practicing.”
Bertuzzi has shown progress at times during the last two months, but then had to shut himself down because of discomfort after skating for several days.
Whether there is enough time in the season for Bertuzzi to safely return to the lineup remains to be seen.
The Wings’ regular season ends May 8, and Blashill feels Bertuzzi would need a minimum of a week to practice before even thinking of returning to play.
“We’re starting to run out of runway,” said Blashill, of whether there is enough time in the schedule.
All things considered, the Wings likely didn’t mind being in warm, sunny South Florida compared to a snowy Detroit.
But it was Opening Day, and hockey players are baseball fans just as anyone else, so that part of it, they missed.
“We’ll be checking the scores for sure,” defenseman Jon Merrill said.
Growing up in Grand Blanc, Merrill, 28, was a die-hard baseball fan.
“I guess as much as you can be as a hockey player,” said Merrill of his love for baseball in Detroit growing up. “I went to a bunch of games as a kid, it was fun. Growing up in Michigan in the 2000s, they had some good teams with some good runs.”
Blashill said forwards Bobby Ryan and Sam Gagner would be available for Thursday for a second consecutive game, and each remains day-to-day.
…Luke Glendening passed Joe Kocur (545 games) for 39th in Red Wings’ history in games played.