Detroit − Tyler Bertuzzi feels two or three preseason games is just about right to get ready for the regular season.
It turns out, Bertuzzi is likely going to be in that range.
Bertuzzi will make his preseason debut Monday against Pittsburgh after missing all of last week. Bertuzzi woke up one morning during training camp in Traverse City and felt “sore.”
“Some things got moved around,” said Bertuzzi, who last season came off back surgery, so any sort of tweak can be impactful.
Bertuzzi sat out a few days, returned to skating late last week, and was cleared to return to the lineup Monday, while getting ready for the start of the season Oct. 14.
“That was the goal,” Bertuzzi said of playing in several preseason games. “It sucks not being able to play, but just to get in one or two (games) and get the feel back heading into this season (is good). Usually, honestly, two or three (games) is good, just to kind of ease your way back into it.”
Incidentally, this was a clean-cut Bertuzzi on Monday morning, having cut his longer hair during the offseason for charity.
Bertuzzi is excited about actually playing a game and getting comfortable in the new systems employed by coach Derek Lalonde.
Bertuzzi has sensed a different atmosphere with a new coaching staff.
“Just a different vibe,” Bertuzzi said. “It looks like everyone is more on the same page and we’re buying in as a group. I’m looking forward to contributing to that and getting the systems down.
“The systems are a little different, there’s new personnel, a lot of different faces, new systems you have to learn and get adjusted to, that will be big for me. I’m looking forward to it and playing with all the new faces.
“Just getting the timing back. Obviously it’s a long summer and practice doesn’t do justice to a game. The biggest thing for me is kind of getting the feel back.”
Lalonde was expecting to reunite the Bertuzzi-Dylan Larkin-Lucas Raymond line Monday, a line that was the Wings’ most productive offensively last season.
Lalonde remembered the opening game last season, at Little Caesars Arena, when Bertuzzi scored four goals in the Wings’ overtime loss to Tampa (where Lalonde was an assistant coach at the time).
“He could have had six (goals), he had a couple juicy ones (chances) in the slot, too,” Lalonde said. “He sniffs the net, goes to the net, and he’ll go those hard areas. But along with some other guys, there was details in his game, too. He was on a roll last year and he felt he had to create offense, so there was a little lean and poach and, I wouldn’t stay cheat in his game, but like everyone else, we have to reel it in a little bit.”
For Bertuzzi, 27, there’s also the reality of entering the final year of his two-year, $9 million contract ($4.75 million salary cap hit). Bertuzzi can be an unrestricted free agent after this season.
Bertuzzi said he hasn’t talked to his agent, Todd Reynolds, about the contract situation. Reynolds is expected to attend the regular-season opener Oct. 14, so Bertuzzi expects to talk then.
“I’m just looking forward to being back and getting ready for the season,” said Bertuzzi, who also was pleased with the news of Canada lifting its COVID-19 regulations enabling the non-vaccinated (like Bertuzzi) to freely enter. Bertuzzi missed nine games in Canada last season because of his unvaccinated status.
“It’s awesome,” Bertuzzi said of Canada lifting its regulations.
The Wings’ lineup Monday was the deepest it has been throughout the exhibition season. Lalonde felt like it was time to get a potential regular-season lineup together.
But Lalonde doesn’t expect any steep cuts, yet, because of the Wings’ playing three preseason games this week.
“We have the back to back Friday and Saturday (against Toronto), and just we literally need bodies for both games,” Lalonde said.
… Forward Oskar Sundqvist, who hasn’t played in game yet, continues to skate on his own (after being hurt before training camp) but Lalonde is “hopeful” of Sundqvist’s availability for the regular-season opener.
Defenseman Robert Hagg, who was hit with a puck in the head/ear area during training camp, skated 50 minutes Monday with skills coaches.
“He came out of it pretty good,” Lalonde said. “He’s headed in the right direction. I do (expect Hagg to be ready for opening night), but this day and age, with any head injury or upper-body injury, you’re very cautious.”
… Lalonde was planning on using forward Elmer Soderblom, but Soderblom reported some upper-body soreness and was held out.