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Young Bertuzzi adjusts his game

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
In two preseason games this week, Red Wings prospect Tyler Bertuzzi has produced two goals, four points and six shots on goal. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT – There was a time when Tyler Bertuzzi felt pressure to live up to his family name on the ice.

The 20-year-old nephew of a former power forward who never backed down from a challenge during 18 NHL seasons, the younger Bertuzzi used to drop the gloves with regularity in the Ontario Hockey League.

But over the last few years, Bertuzzi has retooled his game, becoming more of a scorer than a fighter. Sure, fighting had its thrills, he said, but it also took a toll on him physically.

“I think after a few of my injuries I needed to put my game into a different level,” the young Bertuzzi said. “I wasn’t going to fight anymore; I didn’t want to get hurt anymore. So I just focused a lot on skill and how to contribute offensively, and working hard on and off the ice, and it’s paid off.”

The transition seems to be paying off for Bertuzzi, like it did Thursday, when he produced four points in the Wings’ 6-1 exhibition game victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Playing in just his second ever preseason game, Bertuzzi scored twice and assisted on both of Teemu Pulkkinen’s goals against the Pens.

Like his Uncle Todd before him, Bertuzzi earned a bit of a reputation as an irritating type of player at the junior level. However, Jeff Blashill says that Bertuzzi – who played in Grand Rapids after making the jump from juniors last spring – reminds him of another Wings’ forward.

“What I saw last year, because he’s hard on the puck, he goes to the net front hard, he’s good in front of the goalie,” Blashill said. “For me he’s a guy who can really complement a couple of skill players because he’s got a real high-offensive ability. He thinks at a high level, offensively. He’s got good poise with the puck, but he does a lot of the hard things. I would compare him real similar to (Justin) Abdelkader, that’s what I’ve seen from Tyler.”

Bertuzzi was outstanding in his home debut, playing on a line with Pulkkinen and Dylan Larkin. Together, the line accounted for 10 points, five goals and five assists.

“With Dylan Larkin and obviously Pulky we had a pretty good game last night,” Bertuzzi said. “Me and Dylan are good friends off the ice and I think that contributes on the ice, we know where each other are and a lot of talk and know where each other are really helps a lot.”

A definite long shot to make the Red Wings’ opening night roster, Bertuzzi said the biggest adjustment to the pro game is the physical maturity of the men playing at this level.

“Guys are a lot bigger, you don’t have as much time as you would in junior with the puck,” he said. “I adjusted pretty quick. It was a big help playing with (Andy) Miele and (Mark) Zengerle on the first line there. But that’s the biggest thing was the speed and size for me.”

Niklas Kronwall said the thing he notices most about the young forward is that he possesses the same family feistiness that made his uncle so difficult to play against.

“They both go to the dirty areas of the ice and are strong on the puck and really hard to play against in the corners,” Kronwall said. “It’s going to be fun to watch him develop. He’s going to have a great year and be ready to play here full-time pretty soon.”

Johan Franzen

SYMPTOM FREE: For the first time in more than eight months, Johan Franzen skated in something other than a practice or intra-squad scrimmage, and felt free of the post-concussion symptoms that sidelined him since early January.

Franzen logged 16 minutes of ice time in Thursday’s preseason game against the Penguins. He also assisted on Larkin’s first ‘unofficial’ career goal in the first period.

“It was fun to be back playing,” said Franzen, who was on a line with Riley Sheahan and Luke Glendening. “I felt a little bit better than I thought I was going to feel.”

Blashill said that Franzen will be back in the Wings’ lineup Saturday when they host the Boston Bruins at Joe Louis Arena.

“I thought Johan did a really good job,” Blashill said. “I thought he was skating really good. I know he’s worked really hard to get himself in real good shape. He was one of the first guys here in the summer and I know he’s worked extremely hard and I thought he played that way last night. I thought it was a good line with him and She and Glendening. They kind of complemented each other and took the puck to the net in the second when they scored. I thought he did a real good job.”

While the coaches still have a few more preseason games remaining to experiment with different line combinations, Blashill is considering the idea of keeping Franzen, Sheahan and Glendening together once the regular season begins.

“That’s one we talked about as a potential line come opening night, those three guys together,” Blashill said. “But we’ll have to continue to evaluate.”

Daniel Cleary

INJURY UPDATES: Dan Cleary, who missed training camp and the first three exhibitions, will play in his first preseason game on Saturday.

Cleary, who signed a one-year contract in the off-season, has recovered from a slight tear in a quadriceps muscle. With Franzen and Cleary in the lineup that means Jeff Hoggan and Martin Frk will sit out the game. …

Pulkkinen and defenseman Mike Green did not practice with the team on Friday. Blashill said that both players are day to day. According to Blashill, Pulkkinen suffered an “upper, mid-level” injury in Thursday’s game. The coach did not provide any more information on Green. …

Xavier Ouellet returned to practice Friday. The defenseman, who has an upper body injury, did not skate Thursday. He is not expected to play Saturday.

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