The Detroit Red Wings were dealt a tough blow heading into tonight’s season opener against the St. Louis Blues, when they learned veteran winger Todd Bertuzzi will miss at least a week – and possibly up to a month – while battling illness. Bertuzzi has mononucleosis, a big setback for a team already dealing with injury issues concerning Darren Helm, Mikael Samuelsson and Patrick Eaves.
The loss not only takes a capable scorer off of the third line, but removes a strong physical presence from the lineup as well. When the Nashville Predator’s Shea Weber rammed Henrik Zetterberg’s head into the glass during the first game of last season’s playoffs, it was Bertuzzi who held him accountable in the second game. He tends to lead by example on the ice, and has proven at age 37 he can still put up 30-40 points per season.
The Wings have Jan Mursak and Cory Emmerton to fill their forward spots left open due to injury, and a handful of prospects in the AHL that could fill in as well. So many injuries this early into the season is certainly cause for concern, and could make for a long season. The team now gets a little more time to decide on which young player will stay and which will go – they would have had to make that decision when Helm returns but can now wait until Bertuzzi returns from injured reserve.
In a competitive Central Division this season, the health of the Red Wings will be vital if they hope to reach the postseason. Tonight’s game will give management a good look at how their young players will respond, and hopefully one of them can step up and fill Bertuzzi’s spot.