DETROIT – Todd Bertuzzi said he was fortunate after his scare Tuesday night, but don’t ask the big, bruising forward if he intends to wear a visor.
“I don’t think it’s a discussion any player really wants to have,” Bertuzzi said. “I think it’s a personal decision. I don’t ask you what kind of pencil you use, you know what I mean. It’s our office and we wear what we want to wear. Guys wear different shoulder pads, different helmets and different skates, that’s just how it is. It’s an option we’re given and some guys don’t want to use it.”
Late in the second period of Tuesday’s 4-1 win over Dallas, Bertuzzi was struck under the left eye by Jamie Benn’s stick as the Stars’ forward followed through on a shot. The incident immediately drew blood as Bertuzzi crumbled to the ice, and earned Benn a four-minute minor penalty.
Even though this week’s scare wasn’t his first, Bertuzzi, who had a scratched cornea in his first NHL season with the New York Islanders, won’t let a little mishap affect his game preparation. However, Bertuzzi, who turns 38-years-old this Saturday, said he’d like to see others wear the protective shields.
“I think all the kids coming up, anyone coming into the league the past 4-5 years it should be mandatory to have it,” Bertuzzi said. “The last guy to not wear (a helmet) was Craig MacTavish and I think eventually when us older guys get out of the league they make it mandatory that (visors) be worn.”
It was in 1979 that the NHL made sweeping changes by making helmets mandatory for all new players to the league.
If coach Mike Babcock had his way, everyone on the Red Wings’ roster would wear a visor, including the six others – defensemen Kent Huskins, Ian White, Kyle Quincey, and Jonathan Ericsson, and forwards Jordin Tootoo and Johan Franzen – currently going without the protective gear.
“The thing for me is they’re pro athletes and they have to do what’s right for them,” Babcock said. “I just know life’s long and you’re going to spend a lot of time with your family after. Sometimes those decisions – I mean it takes a week for you to get used to it – but that’s a decision he makes.”
IMPROVED PK: In a week, the Red Wings’ penalty kill unit has jumped from being ranked second-worst in the league to No. 22. In the last three games, the Red Wings have allowed just two power-play goals on 16 chances.
“I really like the direction that it’s going,” Babcock said. “We still are making some mistakes, like we made a huge mistake in Chicago, gave up a freebie. You can’t do that. We’re a work-in-progress. We’re spending a lot of time on specialty teams, an inordinate amount of time, actually. … We have to have top 10 specialty teams, not bottom 10.”
'ROOKIE' SCORING: It’s been 33 years since a rookie last led the Red Wings in goal-scoring for a season. And while that number will reach 34 before history can be repeated, it’s still interesting to note that first-year player Damien Brunner leads this year’s bunch with a team-high three goals.
However, the 26-year-old Swiss import isn’t considered a rookie by NHL standards, because his birth date fell prior to the league’s Sept. 15 cutoff.
For the fun of it, let’s assume Brunner were eligible for this season’s Calder Trophy. He would currently be tied for third in goals with Tampa Bay’s Cory Conacher, and in the league lead for shots on goal by a rookie (25) with four more than St. Louis’s Vladimir Tarasenko.
“I feel comfortable on the ice,” Brunner said. “The last couple of games I’ve felt comfortable out there, getting used to the smaller ice has taken a bit. I’m finding spots where I have time and find spots where I have to go to get into shooting position. It’s a learning process and I hope to keep getting better.”
By the way, for those history enthusiasts, the last rookie to lead Detroit in goals for a season was right wing Mike Foligno. The father of Nick (Columbus) and Marcus (Buffalo) potted 36 goals in the 1979-80 season.
BLUE NOTES: The Wings get another crack at a Central Division rival when they host the St. Louis Blues on Friday at Joe Louis Arena. The Red Wings suffered their worst season-opening defeat since 1958 with a 6-0 trouncing by the Blues on Jan. 19.
“We had a tough game in St. Louis,” Babcock said. “You have to give them credit. They played hard. They were physical on us. Their specialty teams were good. We gave up four gift goals and you can’t do that in a hockey game and expect success. I didn’t think we were very competitive in that game.”
Since then, the Wings have posted a 3-1-1 and out-scored the opposition 15-11.
“Now we have an opportunity to evaluate ourselves six games later and see where we at,” Babcock added. “We’re through segment 1 and we were able to get seven points in our first segment. We have it broken into eight six-game segments. We need to have a better segment this segment to keep in the chase and it starts with the game tomorrow.”
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose