-- Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena is "Todd Bertuzzi
Bobblehead Night," when the Detroit Red Wings
host the power forward's former team, the Vancouver Canucks
Was it merely coincidence that on Thursday morning the Red Wings officially announced that they'd signed the 37-year old Bertuzzi to a two-year contract extension?
"I think it just worked out that way," said Bertuzzi, who's worked his way into the right wing role on Detroit's top line. "It's the place I want to stay and play. When Kenny and [agent Pat Morris] figured out two years was doable, it was an easy decision for myself to accept."
Coming into Thursday night's game, in which the Red Wings will be trying to extend their 23-game NHL-record home winning streak, Bertuzzi has scored 12 goals and added 17 assists in 54 games. He's also got a rating of plus-21 and has meshed well at right wing on the top line with Russian center Pavel Datsyuk
and Swedish left wing Johan Franzen
Right Wing - DET
GOALS: 12 | ASST: 17 | PTS: 29
SOG: 93 | +/-: 21
Datsyuk is currently out of the lineup for a couple of weeks after having minor knee surgery on Monday, but the line has been quite effective most of the season. Bertuzzi can also quietly go about his job in Detroit, without having the spotlight on him very much.
"I like flying under the radar here, with the amount of talent we have and the emergence of [Valtteri Filppula
] and the play of [Jiri] Hudler, it's an easy fit," Bertuzzi said. "Just go out, do your job, work hard and try and get as much as you can. Just get to the corners and get the puck to them and let them do their thing."
He can also concentrate on helping the Wings do their thing, which is win a lot of games. Another reason it was important to Bertuzzi to stay put in the Motor City is because he likes the Wings' approach of going for the Stanley Cup every season.
"That's the only thing," Bertuzzi said. "Getting a deal done was exciting and happy, but my whole main goal here is just to win, and this is the place to do it. You never know what's going to happen. You stay in the present and do what you can in order to make yourself an asset for the team, and I think that's what I've done here."
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland agreed. It's not too often anymore that 37-year old forwards get more than one-year contract offers, but Holland isn't worried about this one -- which has a reported cap hit of $2.075 million each season.
"He's 37 years of age, you know, I think he's training harder now than he did earlier in his career like a lot of players do," Holland said. "He's happy here, and at the end of the day we had talked about a one-year deal at a higher number or a two-year deal at a lower number. I think the way he skates and the way he trains, the two years didn't bother me because it was a cap number that we thought was good for our team and he liked the term."
As for what the 6-foot-3, 229-pound Bertuzzi brings to the mix on the ice, Holland said it's the combination of size, skating ability and skill -- which is hard to find.
"We don't pick high in the draft, so we don't have a lot of big guys with skill," Holland said. "He's a big guy with skill. We've got some big guys coming, but they're not ready to make the team next year, so he's a big guy with skill."
Meanwhile, Bertuzzi is beginning to look down the road and see the end of his career approaching. Could this two-year deal be the last contract of his career -- at least, with the Red Wings?
"That was the plan," he said. "The body feels good, obviously playing with Pav and Franzen has given me some jump in my step. It's nice to get [the contract] done. Now the main focus is get ready for the playoffs and winning a Cup."