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BERTUZZI HEALTHY AND CONFIDENT IN RETURN TO GRIFFINS

Photo: Sam Iannamico
01/02/2017 3:00 PM -

Jan. 2, 2017

By Pete Wallner, MLive
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GRAND RAPIDS - Tyler Bertuzzi is back with the Grand Rapids Griffins with a healthy ankle and healthy attitude that he can play with the Detroit Red Wings.

He'll just have to prove it. Again.

The 21-year-old played in his first game in more than a month Saturday when the Griffins defeated Rockford 5-2. He didn't score, but played well and was surprisingly durable considering the time off.

"I think the injury is behind him and he looks the same as when he was called up," Griffins coach Todd Nelson said.

Bertuzzi, who was called up to the Red Wings on Nov. 6, had no points in seven games with Detroit before he suffered a high ankle sprain making a sharp turn in a corner on Nov. 26.

He rehabbed in Detroit before sent to Grand Rapids on Wednesday for conditioning and a re-evaluation before deciding the next step.

"I thought I did not bad," Bertuzzi said Monday of his time in Detroit. "I played the way he (coach Jeff Blashill) wanted me to play - tough defensively and structured."

Being back in Grand Rapids also provides a comfort zone, Bertuzzi said.

"I have a lot of confidence down here," he said. "I've been here before and know what it's like to play in the league. It's more of a confidence thing here for me. I feel confident skating with the puck and feel good coming back.

Blashill wanted Bertuzzi to get back to the way he was playing when he was recalled.

"It doesn't make much sense for a guy who hasn't played much in the NHL to just pop right back in and expect him to do that," Blashill said. "Let's give him a chance to get playing and get confident."

Bertuzzi is expected to stay with Evgeny Svechnikov and Kyle Criscuolo when the Central Division-leading Griffins host Iowa on Wednesday. The three were paired together Saturday.

Defenseman Brian Lashoff, who was sent with Bertuzzi from Detroit, said the forward met expectations with the Red Wings.

"He's learning the pro game fast," Lashoff said. "When he came up from juniors (at the end of 2014-15 season) he contributed right away and now I think this year he's being consistent and having that energy every night. He's been very good here and I think he did a great job when he was up."

Bertuzzi, who has three goals and six points in 12 games, is eager to contribute to the Griffins.

"I wanted to come back down here and get in some conditioning and finally get back to playing again and playing with these guys," he said. "They're playing really well and I want to help them move up the charts. These guys are doing an incredible job and I want to help them as best I can."