Detroit Red Wings players won’t know whether to hug Tyler Bertuzzi or hit him Saturday when they play the Boston Bruins Saturday on the road.
Maybe they will do both.
“It’s gonna be a little bit weird,” Detroit captain Dylan Larkin said. “Really weird.”
Through fate dictated by the NHL schedule, the Red Wings must face Bertuzzi eight days after he said his emotional goodbyes in the Red Wings dressing room after being traded to the Boston Bruins. The Red Wings play the Bruins Saturday at 1 p.m. in Boston and then again Sunday at 1:30 p.m. in Detroit.
Bertuzzi is popular with Detroit players. He and Larkin are particularly close. Larkin said he has been texting with Bertuzzi regularly since the deal. Bertuzzi registered an assist in his first game playing on Boston’s third line with Charlie Coyle and Trent Frederic.
“He said it’s cool playing on a good team,” Larkin said. “The game they had, it’s a good team, good players. He’s gonna feel more comfortable as time goes on.”
It will be odd for the Red Wings to see Bertuzzi in the black and gold Bruins jersey.
“Different,” Larkin said. “Very different. You know what? He can play hockey anywhere. He’s playing in Boston right now. He will do really well. He’s gonna go on a run. I’m really happy for him in that sense.”
Mum is the Word
The big question is whether the Red Wings will chirp at Bertuzzi or whether he will chirp at them. Edgy play is part of Bertuzzi’s game.
Detroit’s Joe Veleno doesn’t anticipate any chirping.
“I think he knows us way too well, most of us,” Veleno said. “It definitely happens from time to time but I’m sure with him it’ll be mostly just friendly chirps and play the game of hockey.”
Veleno expects it to be a bit awkward for everyone. Last week, Bertuzzi was joking around with everyone in the dressing room and standing up for the Detroit players on the ice. Seeing him as an opponent will take a few shifts.
“Some of us here have known him for awhile,” Veleno said. “It’s kind of you don’t really imagine him in a different jersey. Boston seems to kind of suit him nice over there. Just really excited to see him again. For what he did for the Wings over the course of his career, obviously he’s an iconic symbol here in Detroit. He’s well-liked by all the boys. Just a character guy in the locker room and on the ice. It’s gonna be really nice to see him and a bit weird to play against him.”
There’s no room for sentimentality when he comes to developing strategy to deal with him on the ice. He gives the Bruins even more bite than they had before.
Hard to Play Against
“He’s definitely a pain to play against,” Veleno said “He’s all over the forecheck, he’s all over the puck. He just works his butt off every single shift. He’s relentless out there and I think that’s what makes him so successful. He’s just all over the place and he never gives up. His second effort to win battles and win pucks is incredible. Incredible how good he is with his stick in his battling. I think that’s probably the least thing I’m excited to play against.”
Detroit coach Derek Lalonde said Bertuzzi is at his best when “he hounds the puck.”
“His best hockey is the tops of the circles down,” Lalonde said. “He keeps plays alive on the forecheck, he’s good around the net. He’s hard to play against in those areas. Exciting for him. He obviously was a big part of our organization, a big part of our team. He gets an opportunity to play meaningful hockey down the stretch and it’s just different. ”
Lalonde isn’t concerned about the Red Wings seeing Bertuzzi more as a buddy than an opponent.
“It might be a little bit early on, but once the guys start playing, it goes back to your basic instincts of competition,” Lalonde said. “…A lot of guys are friends, they played juniors, they grew up. This is a little bit different with how close some of those relationships were with Bert. But I don’t think so. I think once the game starts competition takes over.”