Bertuzzi close to returning to Red Wings’ lineup, adding offensive depth

Detroit News

Detroit — Coach Derek Lalonde didn’t hesitate when asked what he’s missed most with no Tyler Bertuzzi in the Red Wings’ lineup.

“Offense, goals,” Lalonde said after Wednesday’s practice. “He’s an elite scorer. As great as our defense has been, chances against, chances for have been down, which is understandable. He would help (offensively).”

Lalonde might be able to write Bertuzzi’s name into the lineup at some point in the upcoming west-coast trip, which begins Saturday in Los Angeles.

Lalonde admitted Wednesday that Saturday’s game might be too soon, and Tuesday’s game in Anaheim might be when Bertuzzi makes his return.

Bertuzzi broke his hand in the second game of the season, in New Jersey. Close to four weeks later, Bertuzzi is close to returning.

“It’s just one of those things,” Bertuzzi said of getting the hand broken on a blocked shot. “You can’t control it; the shot got me in the right spot. It’ll be four weeks, so it wasn’t as bad as we anticipated. I’ve been able to work out and skate, which is good, try to and stay in shape.

“Now, it’s just a matter of it being good enough to play.”

What makes Bertuzzi excited to return is the Wings’ fine start to this season. Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime loss to Montreal ended the Wings’ three-game win streak, but they have a 7-3-3 record and have been one of the NHL’s early-season surprises.

“There have been some tough games, but we have had some real good games, too,” Bertuzzi said. “After every loss, they’ve come back and battled even harder. To win on the road at Madison Square (Garden, Sunday), on a back-to-back is a big thing to do.

“Even when we’re losing, we’re gaining points (overtime, shootout losses) in some of those games, so there’s a lot of positives from this season so far.”

Bertuzzi said there’s “more depth” on this Wings’ roster and a group of players who understand the urgency in winning and playing selflessly.

“Maybe a different mentality, that it’s time to buckle down here and play for one another,” Bertuzzi said. “Hopefully, we can keep this going.”

When Bertuzzi does return, it’ll be interesting to see where he’ll slot into the lineup. Dominik Kubalik, David Perron, and currently Pius Suter, have taken turns on a line with Dylan Larkin and Lucas Raymond. Getting Bertuzzi back to reunite that top line is likely, but Lalonde isn’t getting that far ahead of himself.

“When we get him (Bertuzzi) back, I hope to have that luxury about (making) some tough decisions,” Lalonde said. “But we need to get there. We talked pregame (Tuesday) and the luxury of having everyone back, and (Matt) Luff goes down (during Tuesday’s game). So we need to get there (first).”

Luff update

Luff will have surgery Thursday, Lalonde said, on his wrist and is likely to miss two to three months.

Luff will surgery Thursday, said Lalonde, on his wrist and is likely to miss two to three months.

Luff was dangerously pushed into the boards by Montreal’s Juraj Slafkovsky midway in the third period. Slafkovsky was assessed a major penalty and game misconduct for boarding, and Wednesday was suspended for two games, without pay, the NHL department of player safety announced.

“It’s unfortunate (for Luff); he’s been great for us,” Lalonde said. “You feel for him because those guys on that bubble of being everyday NHLers, he gets an extended look and he does real good. It’s unfortunate.”

Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement and based on his average annual salary, Slafkovsky will forfeit $10,270.28, with the money going to the players’ emergency assistance fund.

Ice chips

Lalonde said Oskar Sundqvist is expected to return to the lineup Thursday against the Rangers. Sundqvist has missed the last seven games.

… David Perron didn’t practice Wednesday, but Lalonde called it a “maintenance day. We expect to have him (Thursday).”

… The Wings aren’t expecting to recall another forward from Grand Rapids for Thursday, said, but very well might heading into the west-coast trip, considering the Wings only have the minimum 12 forwards.

…The Wings didn’t score on seven power-play attempts against Montreal, but Lalonde wasn’t concerned.

“Our power play out-chanced Montreal (for) the entire game, so it is what it is,” Lalonde said. “I’d be more frustrated if you’re not getting looks. When they’re not getting looks is when you are concerned.”

Rangers at Red Wings

▶ Faceoff: 7 p.m. Thursday, Little Caesars Arena.

▶ TV/radio: BSD/97.1

▶ Outlook: The Wings defeated the Rangers (6-5-3) Sunday in New York, 3-2, in overtime. The Rangers are coming off a 4-3 loss Tuesday to the cross-town rival N.Y. Islanders. Rangers G Igor Shesterkin (6-2-2, 2.58 GAA., .910 SVS) has been in net for all the Rangers’ victories. LW Artemi Panarin (14 assists, 19 points) is off to a fast start.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

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