Red Wings' injuries mount, questions arise over hits

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Detroit Red Wings left wing Tyler Bertuzzi crawls back to the bench in pain after a check by Montreal Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin during the second period

Detroit — The number of injured Red Wings is beginning to get close to the number that are healthy.

The list of ailing hockey players got lengthier during Saturday’s 2-1 overtime loss to Montreal, as defenseman Brendan Smith and forward Tyler Bertuzzi both suffered leg injuries.

General manager Ken Holland said both players will undergo further tests and the extent may not be known for another day or two.

“They both will be out a while,” Holland said. “But (we’re) trying to determine what a while is.”

Smith was injured on an unintentional knee-on-knee collision with Montreal’s Phillip Danault with 8 minutes left in the period.

Smith’s right knee bent inward and he clutched his knee after falling to the ice.

Bertuzzi absorbed a shoulder-to-shoulder hit from Montreal defenseman Alexei Emelin and crashed into the boards, Bertuzzi’s left knee (and foot) stretching awkwardly and smashing into the boards.

Bertuzzi left the arena on crutches and in a walking boot.

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It was also Emelin who checked Dylan Larkin behind the Montreal net, hurting Larkin’s leg momentarily.

Larkin went straight to the locker room, but returned to the game shortly after.

Coach Jeff Blashill didn’t comment on Emelin’s hits, but Red Wings players weren’t pleased with what they viewed as borderline dirty plays.

“I just saw it live (but) it looked a little dangerous,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “Sometimes you have to have respect for the other players on the ice and he didn’t look like he had it there.”

Said Justin Abdelkader: “I have to look back on the replays but for sure, a couple questionable ones. That’s obviously a league matter and something the league will look into.”

Bertuzzi and Smith join goaltender Jimmy Howard (groin), defenseman Alexey Marchenko (upper body) and forwards Darren Helm (dislocated shoulder), Andreas Athanasiou (knee) and Tomas Jurco (back), although Jurco, who has yet to play this season, could return Tuesday against Dallas.

Blashill views this situation as an opportunity for young players awaiting their chance, such as defensemen Ryan Sproul and Xavier Ouellet.

“We’ve been fortunate here that we have guys within our depth that are good players,” Blashill said. “It’s a huge part of the NHL, making sure you have enough depth to win and Sproul has come in and done a real good job and X (Xavier Ouellet) has come in and done a real good job.”

Jurco, who had offseason back surgery, played two conditioning games with minor league affiliate Grand Rapids last week and had a goal and an assist.

But he had back stiffness Saturday which prevented any chance of returning to the Red Wings lineup against Montreal. There’s optimism he’ll play Tuesday.

Some stability

One of the positives in defeat, following a modest two-game win streak before Saturday’s game, was the fact the Red Wings finally may have found some lines they like.

Zetterberg centering Tomas Tatar and Anthony Mantha, Larkin between Thomas Vanek and Gustav Nyquist, Frans Nielsen centering Abdelkader and Luke Glendening, and a fourth line of Riley Sheahan between Drew Miller and Steve Ott (replacing the injured Bertuzzi) have encouraged Blashill.

“When you’re starting to play good hockey you can see it, and we’re starting to play good hockey,” Blashill said. “I really like our line combinations, they mesh well together.

“It’s probably the most I’ve liked our lines since I’ve been here, including last year. We have guys in good spots.”