Tyler Bertuzzi kickstarts Detroit Red Wings rally in 4-2 exhibition win over Maple Leafs

Detroit Free Press

Digging out of a hole against a lineup heavy on AHLers isn’t an ideal way to impress the home crowd, but the Detroit Red Wings put in the work with help from a pair of young players angling for jobs.

Their Friday matchup at Little Caesars Arena against the Toronto Maple Leafs was the penultimate game of the exhibition season. The Wings had many of their regulars on the ice; the Leafs did not. An empty net goal from Tyler Bertuzzi secured the Wings a 4-2 victory.

Bertuzzi scored twice, which the Wings have come to expect, but Elmer Söderblom, a big prospect doing his best to force the Wings to keep him, also netted a goal. Joe Veleno, is in the same situation, broke a tie midway through the third period when he took advantage of Dominik Kubalik screening Toronto’s goalie.

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Reading into the lineup

For the second straight home game, the Wings went with a lineup that in large part looked like the one that will start the regular season, including the top line of Bertuzzi, Dylan Larkin and Lucas Raymond, and top four defensemen Moritz Seider, Ben Chiarot, Filip Hronek and Olli Määttä. Notable young players included Söderblom, Veleno and Simon Edvinsson. The Wings want Veleno at center, so with free-agent signee Andrew Copp projected to be available for the opener, that could leave Veleno on the outs. Likewise, Oskar Sundqvist (undisclosed) is also on the horizon, which could make for a tough decision regarding Söderblom.

Digging out

Nicholas Abruzzese scored less than two minutes into the game and Rasmus Sandin followed up four minutes later, slinging the puck from the blue line. It sailed through traffic and eluded goalie Alex Nedeljkovic, putting the Wings down by a pair. Larkin and Bertuzzi paired up to halve the lead late in the first period, with Larkin feeding Bertuzzi for a wrist shot in the left circle. The Wings had a good chance in the second when Jakub Vrana unleashed one of his opportunistic shots, but Ilya Samsonov made the stop and denied Rasmussen’s attempt to go for a rebound. It was the 6-foot-8 Söderblom who evened the score, stickhandling his way to the net and netting his second of the preseason midway through the game.

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Special teams play

The Wings maintained momentum after Söderblom’s goal by killing off a Toronto power play; Kubalik was especially effective applying pressure to get the puck out of Detroit’s zone. Hronek drew a penalty with seconds to spare in the second period, giving the Wings 1:58 with a man advantage on fresh ice. Larkin had a backhand attempt early in the power play, but otherwise a unit of him, Bertuzzi, Raymond, Seider and David Perron were unable to create much. Kubalik had a chance on a second power play, but his stick broke as he took a slap shot from the right circle. The Wings killed off another Toronto power play with six minutes to play.

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames.

Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her latest book, “On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft,” is available from  Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

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