LOOK TO BERT: After loss, should Wings move Bertuzzi to boost No. 2 line?
April 19, 2007
BY HELENE ST. JAMES
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER
CALGARY, Alberta -- It's clear to me that even if he never regains full form during these playoffs, Todd Bertuzzi has made himself an integral part of the Red Wings.
Tonight when the Wings take on the Flames in Game 4 of the best-of-seven first-round series, which Detroit leads, 2-1, Bertuzzi might play a little more than he did in Game 3.
Tuesday's 3-2 loss was Bertuzzi's first game of the playoffs, his first action since being sidelined April 5 by a concussion and whiplash when he collided with the "ripped 180 pounds" that is Chris Osgood's description of himself.
Bertuzzi played with Valtteri Filppula and Johan Franzen, but he might be of more use playing with Robert Lang and Kyle Calder. The Lang-Calder-Mikael Samuelsson line has been an offensive dud and desperately needs a shakeup.
Mike Babcock was coy about regarding possible changes, saying merely, "there'll be game-time decisions."
The Wings won't want to mess with the chemistry of Kris Draper's line with Kirk Maltby and Dan Cleary, and while Henrik Zetterberg's line with Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom was quiet in Game 3, it was outstanding the first two games.
That leaves Filppula's line and Lang's line. Filppula's line saw a change in Game 3 when rookie Jiri Hudler was pulled, despite his having set up two goals in the first two games, in favor of Bertuzzi. I asked Babcock about scratching Samuelsson instead; he hasn't established himself since returning from a broken foot in March.
"We thought about all this," Babcock said. "We obviously in our wisdom, we thought we did the right thing. That's what you guys get paid to do, is second-guess. It's easy to do it the next day. But if I had the chance to do what I did yesterday over again, would I do it? Yes."
Babcock might not to make any changes, and instead let Lang's line work itself out of its slump the old-fashioned way, by hard work.
"It's called being competitive," Babcock said. "Whoever the match up against you, you look across at the guy and you beat him one-on-one. When you're at the net, you look down and you beat that guy one-on-one. When you're in the face-off circle, you beat that guy one-on-one, and you out-will him on every shift. When those things happen, then your skill is allowed to come out. But if that doesn't happen, your skill level never comes out."
Lang was one of a dozen regulars who opted out of practice Wednesday, but Bertuzzi, who has been with the team only since Feb. 27, stuck up for Lang.
"I've got all the confidence in the world in Robert," Bertuzzi said. "I think he's one of the most talented and underrated players in the league. A bounce here, a bounce there, it's going to go in. I think the problem is that people focus too much on individuals.
"It's about the team and about winning; it's not about scoring 50 goals or 100 points in the regular season. It's about winning and contributing. He's doing stuff in different departments."
It was, incidentally, deafeningly obvious Tuesday when it was Bertuzzi who had the puck, because he got booed heartily by fans whose history with him goes back to his many seasons with Flames rival Vancouver. No longer is Chris Chelios the only Wing who gets jeered throughout Western Canada.
"I'm sure he's thrilled to have me out here in these buildings," Bertuzzi said, smiling. "They're always fun places to play in. Hey, at least they know we're out there. The other guys aren't getting booed or nothing, so at least they know we've done something and are out there."
Maybe Bertuzzi will be out tonight with Lang, maybe not. Hudler is a rookie, and he is undersized; on the other hand, he, Filppula and Franzen were clicking. Samuelsson had no shots in Game 3, and he has one assist in nine playoff games dating to last spring. The Wings need to win tonight to prevent the Flames from gaining any more confidence, and getting Lang's line going would be of great help.
Contact HELENE ST. JAMES at 313-222-2295 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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