Detroit Red Wings regain Tyler Bertuzzi, focus on ‘flipping these tight games’

Detroit Free Press

Some good news for the Detroit Red Wings: Tyler Bertuzzi will be back for their next game.

Getting a gritty goal scorer back in the lineup Tuesday when they host the Winnipeg Jets should help the Wings as they try to end a three-game skid. They have played well for extended stretches, but special teams were a consistent letdown in a 4-1 loss at the Toronto Maple Leafs, a 3-2 loss to the Florida Panthers, and a 5-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils.

“We have to understand that there is a certain way that we play to be successful, and I’ve seen it for many years,” veteran forward David Perron said. “I think sometimes we’re flirting with it, sometimes we’re not doing it. Definitely when we start falling in games, you can kind of see that fade away a little bit.”

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It’s the second comeback of the season for Bertuzzi, both times coming off hand surgery. He’ll start the game on a line with Dylan Larkin and Lucas Raymond, reuniting a trio that had success last season. Bertuzzi’s availability bumped Michael Rasmussen to a line with Andrew Copp and Jonatan Berggren; the other lines had Pius Suter with Dominik Kubalik with Oskar Sundqvist, and Joe Veleno with Robby Fabbri and Perron.

Coach Derek Lalonde said Filip Zadina, out since early November with a leg injury, is projected to be available next week. If there are no injuries between now and then, the Wings will have to clear a roster spot to activate Zadina. Zadina could well find himself starting his comeback with a conditioning stint with the Grand Rapids Griffins, after being sidelined for more than two months.

For the guys in the lineup, a big focus is special teams. The power play has converted once on seven opportunities the last three games, while the penalty kill has given up five goals in that stretch.

“The power play, special teams — we have this stretch where we score one, two, one,” Lalonde said. “We need a power play goal to give us a chance to get to three or to two, or to extend a lead or to take a lead. Unfortunately the timing of the penalty kill — you hold Toronto 1-for-5, but it was a power play goal. It turned the game.

“I think there’s a little stick-to-it, and find some more within special teams and a little more five-on-five offense, to flip these tight games.”

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The power play has been the most glaring failure, because unlike earlier in the season, it hasn’t even been generating momentum.

“There’s some momentum drain, for sure,” Lalonde said. “The other night, our five-on-five play was good, and we sprinkled in those two power plays and it kind of deflated us. You want possession, you want looks. We are going to put both Fabs and Bert together on the power play and we need to start figuring some things out for a little spark.”

Lalonde had Bertuzzi and Fabbri on the same power play unit in Monday’s practice, with Larkin, Perron and Filip Hronek. (Moritz Seider, Jake Walman, Raymond, Berggren and Sundqvist were on the other unit.) Perron said the units need to play with more pace and “make sure that we are all connected, all five of us. The moment there is one guy that is not connected, it changes everything.

“Having that poise and that confidence and that patience that when you get in the o-zone, you see a play, it might not be the right play, but you keep building your cycle game, where 10 seconds later there’s a better look for you. That’s the one you score on. If you don’t, it’s the same as with the power play — you bring momentum, 10 seconds more in their zone, 10 seconds they have to stop and play in their d-zone. You do that enough, the top players on the other side, eventually they get tired, they start forcing plays, you get two-on-ones, things like that.”

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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