Tyler Bertuzzi proving a big booster for Red Wings (when he's available)
Detroit — The Red Wings are a different team with forward Tyler Bertuzzi in the lineup.
The statistics bear it out, along with the eye test, as Bertuzzi has a way of bringing the Wings into the battle with his no-holds-barred style of play.
Bertuzzi sparked the Wings' come-from-behind victory Saturday in Buffalo — scoring two late goals to tie the game, then setting up Moritz Seider for the game-winner in overtime — then added a goal and assist in Sunday's 5-2 victory over Vegas.
“It’s great to see his confidence take off," said forward Dylan Larkin, Bertuzzi's linemate and friend, who returned to the lineup Sunday.
Bertuzzi is playing the best hockey of his pro career, with a team-leading 15 points on 10 goals (team-high) in 10 games, along with a team-best plus-10 rating.
But Bertuzzi has missed the three games in Canada because of his unvaccinated status. The Wings have lost all three games. The Wings are 6-2-2 with Bertuzzi in the lineup.
Larkin, who returned Sunday from a three-game absence for a family emergency, praised Bertuzzi's dedication on and off the ice.
“I couldn’t be more proud of him,” Larkin said. “People like to think of us as just figures and we all know Tyler made his own decision (regarding vaccination). People think it’s not hard on him, think it’s not hard on us to live our own lives and make the decisions, but he stuck with it.
"He’s come to play every time he’s been in the lineup, and I couldn’t be more proud of him. When he’s been on the ice with us, he battles, he battles for his teammates. He’s one of my best friends. It’s great to see his confidence take off.”
Don't underestimate the value of Saturday's road win in Buffalo, in which Bertuzzi made such a difference with his pressure performance late in the game.
The Wings were trailing by two goals, had gone winless in four games, and their confidence appeared low.
Rallying to earn the victory, then winning again Sunday, may have been a huge development for the Wings at an early crossroads in their season.
“A great competitor, a great person and he’s a hell of a player," head coach Jeff Blashill said. "I don’t know if he gets his due all the time for as good a player as he is. He’s had a big impact on the games he’s played in for sure, and certainly (Saturday) he had a huge impact.”
More rookie praise
It's become an almost-daily occurrence, but there was one more individual recognizing the play of rookies Seider and Lucas Raymond.
That would be Larkin, who noticed from the late summer scrimmages the two young players were ready for pro hockey, given their experience in European pro leagues.
“You could see it from the first day they got here,” Larkin said. “They’ve been playing pro hockey, and they know what pro hockey is about. You have to show up and play every night."
Larkin noticed the matchup Sunday between Seider and Vegas' Alex Pietrangelo, considered one of the NHL's best overall defensemen.
“It was fun to watch Mo, he and (Alex) Pietrangelo had a little battle of who could rush the puck, steal pucks more," Larkin said. "Pietrangelo’s one of the best defensemen in the league and Mo was one of the best players on the ice (Sunday).
"Lucas is dangerous. He’s someone that is incredible to play with because he’s going to make plays, he’s crafty and he’s going to get the puck to you.”
Forward Vladislav Namestnikov scored his fifth goal during Sunday's victory, in only 13 games, after scoring eight goals all last season.
"I can make the argument the last two or three years, statistically, he should have had more goals," Blashill said. "He worked hard over the summer, and he's done a good job with that.
"I don’t know that he’s played a whole lot different (from last season). Certainly scoring helps your confidence. Sometimes the puck goes in."
Oilers at Red Wings
►Faceoff: 7:30 Tuesday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
►Outlook: Edmonton (9-1-0) is opening a five-game trip. ... The Oilers are leading the Western Conference behind the play of C Leon Draisaitl (10 goals, 13 assists) and C Connor McDavid (eight goals, 14 assists). ... G Mikko Koskinen (7-1-0, .920 SVS) has been a pleasant surprise.
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