Red Wings rule Tyler Bertuzzi, Frans Nielsen out for season; Dylan Larkin day to day
Detroit — Injuries have hit, and are hitting, the Red Wings as they head into the final days of the season.
And the situation isn't getting any better.
Coach Jeff Blashill announced after Thursday's morning skate the team has ruled out forwards Tyler Bertuzzi (upper body) and Frans Nielsen (lower body) for the remainder of the season. There are eight games left beginning Thursday against Dallas.
But it hardly ends there.
Forward Dylan Larkin (upper body), who was hurt late in Tuesday's game in Dallas, will not play Thursday and will have further evaluation on his injury. Blashill would not speculate on the severity of Larkin's injury, and there's a chance Larkin could miss more games.
Forward Robby Fabbri (upper body) will also miss his 10th consecutive game Thursday, but he has been skating and is considered to day to day.
Forward Bobby Ryan (upper body) was lost for the season in late March.
And forward Joe Veleno, a prospect who completed his quarantine Sunday after returning from the Swedish Hockey League, still hasn't been cleared to play. Veleno suffered a mild concussion/whiplash late in the Swedish season and missed the final two weeks of the season.
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It's a lengthy list of players, but especially costly because of the offensive skill in that group.
Larkin, Bertuzzi, Fabbri and Ryan all are key offensive players and important personnel on the power play. Without them in the lineup, the Wings are challenged offensively.
"Without those guys we're not as deep, that's the reality," Blashill said after the morning skate. "Coming into the season we weren't as deep as some teams, and they (Thursday's opponent, Dallas) have had a lot of injuries, too, on their side. But you'd probably say they're a deeper team (at the start of the season), so it affects teams in different ways."
The Wings have attempted to be more of a defensive team this season, especially as goals were scarce early in the schedule.
Keeping opponents off the scoreboard will be crucial in this final stretch.
"What I do know is we have to be a hard team to play against these last eight games for us to enjoy that feeling of victory," Blashill said. "One of the things of being a hard team to play against is not giving away easy (offensive) chances or easy goals, and that's where we failed the other night (Tuesday's 5-2 loss in Dallas).
"It wasn't a game where we were on our heels or we got leaned on and leaned on, but we just made poor decisions and exposed the slot and areas that were uncharacteristic of our team.
"So, how do you absorb injuries? You have to be real good defensively. Without Larks (Larkin), Fabbs (Fabbri), without Bert (Bertuzzi), and Bobby Ryan, we've lost firepower up front. We're not a super high-scoring team to begin with and certainly we lost a lot of firepower, so we have to become, and it's been the theme of the season, we have to be great defensively."
Here's where each of the injured players stand:
►Bertuzzi: The news regarding Bertuzzi wasn't shocking by any means, considering he hadn't played since Jan. 30.
But it put the exclamation point on a disappointing, almost lost season as Bertuzzi only played nine games, with five goals and two assists.
There is speculation the injury to Bertuzzi could be back related. Blashill wouldn't divulge the nature of the injury, or whether surgery would be involved.
"I don't have the answer (regarding surgery) today. Certainly it could (be an option)," Blashill said.
It was a frustrating season for Bertuzzi, having only played the nine games in an already-shortened 56-game schedule.
"You have a shortened season to begin with and lose the majority of the short season, there is a degree of it being a lost year," Blashill said. "It's a reminder to all of us of how special every day and every game is.
"It's been unfortunate. The focus right now for Bert is getting himself so he's healthy at the start of next season and I know he'll work hard with our medical staff to try and get him to that position."
►Nielsen: He was injured in Saturday's loss against Chicago, ending what was a difficult season for the veteran.
Nielsen, who will turn 37 on Saturday, only played in 29 games with one goal and five assists. Blashill went a variety of younger players over Nielsen in the lineup, as Nielsen was a healthy scratch most games.
The injury caps a disappointing stint for Nielsen, who has one season left on a six-year, $31.5 million contract ($5.25 million salary cap hit) and could be a buyout candidate this summer.
Blashill praised Nielsen, an alternate captain, for exemplifying leadership in a hard year.
"There were a number of nights he was a healthy scratch. He started the year not with the main group (in training camp), and he did a great job of showing what an unselfish teammate he is," Blashill said. "Certainly he didn't agree with all my decisions and he wasn't accepting that necessarily (being a healthy scratch), but he was a great example of how you handle yourself when you do go through those types of things. You go and work your butt off in practice and be ready as you can, and Franzie has done that. Every time he went into games, he seemed to do a good job.
"It's unfortunate he can't help us finish the season."
►Larkin: Hurt on a face-off late in Tuesday's game, Larkin didn't play Thursday and will be further evaluated Friday to get a better indication of where he's at physically.
There is a chance Larkin could miss more games.
"There's potential of that, but I just don't want to give incorrect information right now," Blashill said. "He'll have further tests and we hope to have more (information) on Saturday."
►Fabbri: His last game was April 3, and although he's been skating in practices and morning skates, he remains out of the lineup.
With 10 goals in 30 games this season, the Wings dearly miss Fabbri's offense in the 10 games he's missed.
"He's day to day," Blashill said of Fabbri's availability, acknowledging sometimes that can mean multiple days before returning. "He's skated with us in a non-contact jersey, so we'll see."
►Ryan: He had seven goals and seven assists in 33 games before his season ended after the March 28 game against Columbus.
The question with Ryan, 34, now becomes whether the Wings re-sign the veteran, who can be an unrestricted free agent, to a new contract this summer.
►Veleno: The Wings would like to get the 2018 first-round draft pick into an NHL game this season, but Veleno has yet to be cleared to play.
Veleno suffered concussion symptoms and whiplash during an on-ice collision late in the Swedish season, missed two weeks of playing time and then had to conclude a week-long quarantine.
He has skated with the Wings this week and appears to be close to joining the lineup. There certainly are positions in the lineup Veleno could fill.
"He's not cleared to play yet, and until he's cleared to play, he's not in," Blashill said. "He's on his way toward being cleared. There's a certain ramp up he has to follow and we're following that. We're going to make sure that he's completely healthy before we put him in there."