Acquired from Florida at the trade deadline Tuesday, Bertuzzi said he appreciated having a chance to make one of the NHL’s top teams even better.
“It’s good to come in here, get a good skate in and meet the guys and get comfortable,” the 32-year-old forward said. “I’m excited. All the credit goes to the team to get in this spot (in the standings). I’m hoping to come in and find a spot.”
That won’t happen right away. Bertuzzi hasn’t played since he had lower-back surgery in November – after being sidelined for more than two weeks by a herniated disc. Detroit coach Mike Babcock hopes to have Bertuzzi in the lineup by the end of the month.
“I knew he’d go on the ice, but I thought he’d be out there for a few minutes and be gone,” Babcock said after practice. “I was surprised he hung around and got involved in the drills you get bumped. I told him, ‘You don’t have to impress us today. You impressed already before, and that’s why you’re here.”‘
Bertuzzi acknowledged that he can’t afford to hurry himself into the lineup.
“I can’t be too eager and I don’t want to mess things up,” he said.
Bertuzzi met before practice with fellow veteran Chris Chelios. The two squared off numerous times going back several years to Bertuzzi’s stint in Vancouver.
“I’m sure glad he’s on our team and we’re not playing against him,” Chelios said.
Bertuzzi also fielded questions about the March 2004 incident in which he sucker-punched Colorado’s Steve Moore in one of hockey’s ugliest episodes. He served a 17-month suspension after hitting Moore in the side of the head and driving him face-first into the ice, breaking three vertebrae in his neck, giving him a concussion and other injuries.
After pleading guilty to assaulting Moore, Bertuzzi was sentenced to probation and community service.
“The only people who talk about and discuss it is usually media and all that,” Bertuzzi said Thursday. “You know, I gotta respect that you guys have a job to do and I understand it. … I’m the same as everyone else. I just got issues that will take care of themselves. Like I said, it’s not for Detroit to deal with. It’s for me to deal with. It has no bearing on anything right now with me playing here.”