Notebook round-up: On Bertuzzi’s return

I’m not going to my family’s Christmas party because of the delta variant of COVID-19. My aunt is immune-compromised, and while all my relatives are vaccinated and boosted, my aunt has informed me that she believes the virus is too, well, virulent for us to take the risk of hugging and hanging out with 30-some people when Michigan has the highest rates of COVID infection in the nation.

My aunt is vaccinated and boosted, as am I, but her immune system is effectively a wet piece of paper towel, and a one-ply piece of cheap paper towel at that. She’s going through an immune flare-up where her immune system attacks her body right now, and it’s just too risky for me to be out in crowds, even vaccinated, well-meaning ones.

Bluntly, there is no magic bullet against COVID infection. It’s a respiratory illness, and it’s spread by breathing, sneezing, coughing, things that all of us do on a regular basis. And it’s incredibly virulent against human beings.

As we’ve learned in the sporting world, when players are breathing, sneezing, coughing, spitting, sweating, bleeding and generally exerting themselves athletically in close proximity, COVID can spread like wildfire, even if teams are masking and isolating players away from on-ice and in-the-locker-room activities.

Long story long, even vaccination is not a magic bullet, but it sure as hell helps reduce the severity of COVID among those who contract it.

The Red Wings are vaccinated against COVID except for one player, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Bertuzzi informed the media on Monday that the fact that he got COVID and missed 5 games due to his infection will not change his mind as to not getting vaccinated. I’ll let Detroit Hockey Now’s Bob Duff take it from here

The only player in the NHL who hadn’t opted to get the COVID-19 vaccine, Bertuzzi didn’t encounter a change of heart after the virus infected his system.

“Naturally immunity now,” he boasted. However, it should be noted that reputable medical research institutes such as Johns Hopkins Medicine are refuting such claims from COVID-19 sufferers that having the virus grants them natural immunity.

It’s kind of like the Red Wings and defensive zone coverage on the road. The way they approach this facet of the game, it would be easy to think they had a natural immunity to it but they don’t, really.

A fact that can’t be disputed is that the Red Wings are a different team with Bertuzzi in the lineup than they are when he doesn’t suit up. Detroit is 2-6 in eight games Bertuzzi has missed. When he plays, the Red Wings are 11-5-3.

Even the knowledge of how his absence is hurting his teammates’ chances of success isn’t moving Bertuzzi any closer to thinking that his getting the vaccination would be helpful to the club.

“Obviously it sucks missing games but it is what it is,” Bertuzzi said.

As far as we know, Bertuzzi wasn’t paid while he missed 5 games and 10 days in COVID protocol, and he won’t be paid for the remaining Canadian games that he misses, but that’s his decision.

And he knows that he can exploit his status as a fantastic player and integral part of the Red Wings’ offense to afford himself a level of immunity from the consequences of his COVID-related beliefs, and he’s doing that. So it is.

The Red Wings can use Bertuzzi, who is an offensive catalyst that’s hard to replace, and he’s coming back on Tuesday vs. the Islanders. The Red Wings can use him as they’re on an 0-and-3 streak, as’s Jonathan Mills notes

Bertuzzi is set to return against the upstart Islanders. After losing 11 straight games, New York has won two of its last three. In their current three-game losing streak, the Red Wings have been outscored, 18-7. While Bertuzzi’s return should provide a boost to Detroit’s offense, coach Jeff Blashill said the forward may not be at full speed right away.

“It varies a little bit, guy to guy. It varies a little bit how hard they’ve been hit,” Blashill said. “Sometimes, I think they’re back in your lineup and you expect them to be right back where they were when they left, but that’s unrealistic a lot of times. I think we have to understand it might take Bert some time to get himself back and playing at that full speed, the 100 percent that he’s capable of, and it might not.”

While producing offensively is key, Bertuzzi reiterated the importance of good defense to playing winning hockey.

“If we are good defensively, we have a really good chance at winning the hockey game,” Bertuzzi said. “If we can clean up in the D-zone, then it’s going to lead to more offense and more wins.”

A moment to hit the reset button could be beneficial. Excluding the Red Wings’ first and most recent games this season, they are 7-11-2 when they have one day off, or play a back-to-back. When it has at least two days off, Detroit is 6-2.

“Every team in the league is going to go through stretches, whether it is good or bad, and you got to learn to put it behind you,” Bertuzzi said. “Just take the positives from everything and move on and try and get better.”

So the Red Wings will welcome back their much-missed forward, as MLive’s Ansar Khan noted…

Bertuzzi had no goals and three assists in 10 games before entering protocol. He had nine goals and 15 points in his first 10 games. Blashill called it the normal ebbs and flows of a season.

“Obviously, he wasn’t going to keep up the pace that he had early,” Blashill said. “Those are unrealistic numbers for the course of the season. I don’t have an issue with Bert’s game. I think Bert, when he left, was playing good hockey and hopefully he can get back up to speed as quick as possible.”

Bertuzzi said he needs to “just keep it simple, I guess. Try to get points. Maybe go to the net a little bit more.”

Bertuzzi returned to his normal spot on the line with Dylan Larkin and Lucas Raymond in practice. They have produced at a high rate at times, but Blashill said they need to manage the puck better, too.

“They have made plays that have resulted in some higher-end goals,” Blashill said. “They’ve also turned the puck over too much. So, there’s a balance there.”

And the Wings will exercise caution with another useful player, veteran Marc Staal, still in COVID protocol as of Monday, as the Free Press’s Helene St. James noted:

Defenseman Marc Staal remained in protocol Monday. He, Bertuzzi and DeKeyser have all been sidelined in recent weeks by the virus, which is making daily news in the NHL. The Calgary Flames had three games postponed this week because of how many team personnel are in protocol, and the Islanders were coming off a postponed schedule when they were in Detroit earlier this month. In the NBA, the Pistons’ game Tuesday with the Chicago Bulls was postponed due to an outbreak on the Bulls.

Blashill wasn’t sure if the Wings would travel under enhanced measures when they visit Carolina later this week, as they did on last week’s trip to St. Louis and Colorado.

“Last trip we were in enhanced measures and we stayed in our rooms,” he said. “Some teams went to that early in the season and they had one of the biggest COVID outbreaks. It’s a virus that can find you a lot of different ways. Certainly, you want to be vigilant.”

And vaccines help, as the scientific data has proven. But the Red Wings have a COVIDIOT in the lineup, and he’s irreplaceable, so they’re going to accommodate him.

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George Malik

My name is George Malik, and I'm the Malik Report's editor/blogger/poster. I have been blogging about the Red Wings since 2006, when MLive hired me to work their SlapShots blog, and I joined Kukla's Korner in 2011 as The Malik Report. I'm starting The Malik Report as a stand-alone site, hoping that having my readers fund the website is indeed the way to go to build a better community and create better content.

One thought on “Notebook round-up: On Bertuzzi’s return”

  1. Staying away from big crowds, especially Family events is a thung that helps but it is getting around 2 years.

    Well Dr Bertuzzi, My long time Dr has had it 3 times so I hope your thoughts on immunity works for you. The Variants might be a whole different story.

    George, this time of year can be tough to get thru so your ailments maybe effect many. Aging is a tough thing to get through. The World Health is a mess now. Hope you are feeling better. Probably no immunity in the future for many.

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