Tyler Bertuzzi had a good laugh clearing up a bit of misinformation generated by a friend and teammate, happily revealing what he really did during the Detroit Red Wings’ bye week.
Bertuzzi didn’t stay in town to work on his game, he just looked like he did. Four months into the season and after three injury layoffs, Bertuzzi at last looks like he is regaining the form that makes him so valuable.
“Give him credit, he’s trying to manage his game a little better,” coach Derek Lalonde said Wednesday. “You’re not seeing him with the egregious turnovers. He’s trying to manage his game while keeping his offense going, and he’s getting there, which is a good sign for us.”
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Bertuzzi’s resurgence after two hand surgeries and a lower-body injury comes as the March 3 trade deadline draws near, increasing attention on players who, like Bertuzzi, are in the last year of their contracts. When he scored Tuesday against the Oilers it was only Bertuzzi’s second goal in 18 games this season, but he reached 30 goals last season, and posted back-to-back 21-goal seasons three years ago, before a slew of injuries, including back surgery, disrupted his career.
“I’m not 100% there, but I’m starting to feel more confident and feel better with the puck,” Bertuzzi said. “I’m just playing smarter with the puck, trying to keep it as simple as possible, and the results with come.”
Bertuzzi, 27, has been bandied about as a possible trade chip before. That’s because he’s a gritty goal scorer with a history of playoff success from junior and minor-league days, making him attractive to contenders.
“There’s always something floating out there,” Bertuzzi said. “It’s been like that for three years now. I didn’t look into it the first three years, I’m not going to do it this year.”
Bertuzzi said one key to avoiding chatter is to “delete Twitter and Instagram.”
Wings general manager Steve Yzerman has been in talks with Bertuzzi’s agent about an extension, but figuring out term and money has been hampered by Bertuzzi’s multiple absences, which last season included missing nine games because Bertuzzi refused to get the COVID vaccine, preventing him from playing in Canada. A one-year extension is a possibility that could work for both sides, giving the Wings the chance to see what Bertuzzi can do with a full season and giving Bertuzzi a chance to re-establish his value. A trade is also a possibility, should Yzerman get an offer he judges would serve the rebuild more.
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Keeping Bertuzzi makes sense, though, considering the Wings don’t score easily as it is, and Bertuzzi has an instinct for doing so around the net.
“He hunts pucks, he keeps pucks alive,” Lalonde said. “To me, watching him last year and what he’s been missing with not having his rhythm, not being around, is little two-foot races in the O-zone on the forecheck that he gets a stick on and keeps alive. He was unable to get there. Now you can see his pace getting there, he’s keeping plays alive. The goal he scored was a great example of execution, on a set forecheck into a forecheck, they kept the play alive and back of the net. That’s who he is.”
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Lalonde has had Bertuzzi on a line with Dylan Larkin and Lucas Raymond, a combo Lalonde said a few weeks ago was good offensively but needed to minimize allowing grade-A scoring chances. Now that Bertuzzi is regaining his timing, Lalonde is much happier with what he has seen.
“I have the luxury of watching the game over four or five times, ad nauseam,” he said. “That feels like a really good line right now. They feel dangerous and it’s real.
“There was an article basically saying they were a poor defensive line and it kind of upset me, because it’s not how we see it, or how our numbers look. They get the top line every single night, every single matchup, and they get the top D-pair. That’s a tall order, and they’ve been really good of late and hopefully they are still building.”
Regarding Bertuzzi’s bye week: Larkin mentioned after the Oilers game that Bertuzzi had stayed in town to skate and work on his skills. In fact, Bertuzzi didn’t go anywhere near a rink.
“No, absolutely not,” Bertuzzi said, laughing. “I think he was screwing around with you guys.”
It turns out Bertuzzi did stay in the area, but that was because he has an 11-month old daughter at home.
“It’s kind of hard traveling with the little girl,” he said. “My fiancee’s parents came up and we just had some family time, it was good.
“It was a good refresh. We’re not home all the time and to be able to just wake up, make breakfast, hang out with family — I went ice fishing twice, so it was good.”
Contact Helene St. James at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames.
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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.