‘Bright spot’ Tyler Bertuzzi gives Red Wings hope for future

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Tyler Bertuzzi

Looking for someone to make you feel optimistic about the Red Wings’ future?

Try forward Tyler Bertuzzi, given how he has played lately.

Playing on a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Gustav Nyquist Monday in San Jose, Bertuzzi continued his recent hot streak with assists on all three goals in the Red Wings’ 5-3 loss.

That gave Bertuzzi seven points in the last seven games – not counting Thursday’s late game in Los Angeles – and was just the latest in a string of impressive games.

“Tyler was excellent,” coach Jeff Blashill told reporters afterward. “He’s a real bright spot for us. He’s got a real bright future. He can be a heck of a player.

“He needs to become a little stronger and a little faster. That’s going to happen this offseason. I believe he has the determination.

“He’s been hurt the last couple of summers, but he’s got poise, he’s got hockey sense. He’s real good with the puck. There’s a real bright future there.”

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It’s been interesting to watch Bertuzzi evolve since being drafted 58th overall (second round) in 2013.

Then, Bertuzzi was considered an agitator, a player who could disrupt opponents. But he was considered lacking on offense.

But over the years Bertuzzi, 23, has developed into more of an offensive force, while still being an agitator – although he’s curbed that role, concentrating on being a dependable two-way player.

Bertuzzi’s offensive game grew to the point where he was named playoff MVP last year when Grand Rapids won the Calder Cup. He had 19 points (nine goals, 10 assists) in 19 games.

That followed a springtime trend for Bertuzzi in the American League playoffs.

The year before, Bertuzzi had seven goals in nine Griffins playoff games, while in the 2015 playoffs Bertuzzi had 12 points (seven goals, five assists) in 14 games.

Blashill has always believed that Bertuzzi thrives in playoff situations because the games are suited to his grinding, tough-minded style.

“When is a game is wide open, you don’t notice him as much,” Blashill said. “But when the game is a grind, you notice him more and certainly he makes tons of little plays.”

Bertuzzi has strong hockey instincts, balancing what he might lack in speed and size.

“He just has real good hockey smarts, and poise with a real hard approach,” Blashill said. “That’s a special combination and that is transferable to successful hockey.

“Bert goes to the net hard, gets pucks out on the wall and he’s smart enough to play with real good players. He’s a good piece.”

Blashill has put Bertuzzi with Zetterberg and Nyquist on multiple occasions since Bertuzzi was recalled from Grand Rapids in late December, and the line has had moments of effectiveness.

Bertuzzi’s workmanlike approach has blended well with the skill of Zetterberg and Nyquist.

Bertuzzi has mentioned on several occasions that playing with Zetterberg is a particular pleasure, because of the veteran’s approach on and off the ice.

“Playing with Henrik Zetterberg, I feel real good, and obviously I’m happy where I am,” Bertuzzi said.

Bertuzzi hit a bit of a lull late January and early February when some lackluster games, along with bad penalties, forced Blashill to cut Bertuzzi’s ice time, and even be a healthy scratch one game.

But he is learning to be an NHL player, every game.

“He’s had some games -- the Chicago game he didn’t show up (minus-4 in the Jan. 25 game) -- and this isn’t a league you can afford to do that,” Blashill said. “It’s too hard of a league. Bert is a heck of a player and he can have success in that role. But he has to go out and grab it.”

Red Wings at Ducks

Faceoff: 10 p.m. Friday, Honda Center, Anaheim, California

TV/radio: FSD/97.1FM

Outlook: The Ducks (35-24-12, 82 points) are one point out of a playoff spot and are 5-4-1 in their last 10 games. … C Ryan Getzlaf has 41 assists and 51 points.