Tatar trade opens door for Wings’ Bertuzzi to move up

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

St. Louis, Mo. — Tyler Bertuzzi is moving up.

Bertuzzi, who was playing on the fourth line and seeing minimal minutes in recent games, found himself on the second line at Wednesday’s morning skate, playing alongside Dylan Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou.

Any young player wants a chance, and Bertuzzi has gotten one in this case.

“It’s a huge part of my career, a big learning thing for me to be in a second-line spot,” Bertuzzi said. “I’m just going to learn from it and play hard.

“They have a lot of speed (Larkin, Athanasiou), so if I can be good on the walls and get them the puck, and if we get the offensive-zone time, they’ll be able to create opportunities and I’ll be net-front.”

Bertuzzi’s ascension comes mainly from the trade of Tomas Tatar on Monday to the Vegas Golden Knights for three draft picks.

Bertuzzi replaces Tatar, who was playing on that line, while Martin Frk replaces Bertuzzi on the checking line.

When Bertuzzi was recalled in late December, he gradually earned consistent playing time and was playing alongside Henrik Zetterberg at one point.


But the lineup was shuffled, Bertuzzi found himself in other roles, and adjusting to life in the NHL became a learning experience.

“Bert had an opportunity when he came up and played good minutes when guys were injured,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “He slipped a little bit, then other guys grabbed those spots and he hasn’t had a lot of opportunity the last number of games, he hasn’t had a lot of minutes.

“Bert is a heck of a player and he can have success in that role. But he has to go out and grab it. I can think what I want, but he has to get it done.”

Bertuzzi must realize, Blashill said, there isn’t room to take a shift, of period, off.

“He’s had some games, the Chicago game he didn’t show up (mentally) in the first period, and this isn’t a league you can afford to do that,” Blashill said. “It’s too hard of a league. The game after that, whether it was him or not, the line struggled after that, so all of a sudden you throw a couple of games where you haven’t been at your best and somebody else takes that spot.

“Again, he’s going to have a real chance here.”

In 28 games this season, Bertuzzi has two goals and nine assists, with a minus-6 rating, and averaging just over 13 minutes of ice time.

Bertuzzi is looking forward to the opportunity to play with offensive-minded players like Larkin and Athanasiou.

“I played a little bit with Larks and Double-A this year and I thought I played well,” Bertuzzi said. “Obviously with (David) Booth and Glennie (Luke Glendening), you have to work and grind and I love playing with Glennie, he works so hard and creates space for you.

“It’s a lot different (with Larkin, Athanasiou). They’re a lot faster and they’re here to score and create chances. I’m looking forward to it.”

For a young player used to playing more than 20 minutes a game in the minor leagues, it’s an adjustment to enter the NHL and play less than half of that.

Likely seeing more regular ice time, and more of it, should be beneficial.

“It’s a little bit difficult, obviously,” Bertuzzi said. “You have to get into the game, but if you’re sitting for five or six minutes, your legs maybe aren’t ready.

“But we played well in New York (Sunday), me, Glennie and Booth, and we were going and getting on the forecheck and creating opportunities. It was good.

“Now I get to play with Double-A and Larkin, and I’m excited.”