DETROIT – Detroit Red Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi feels the best he’s felt in quite some time.
And that’s a good thing for a player that will be fighting for a job this season.
Bertuzzi battled through back issues on and off all of last year that saw him play just six regular season games and six in the postseason.
“(I feel) a thousand times better,” Bertuzzi said after skating with a handful of teammates on Joe Louis Arena as they prepare for training camp in Traverse City that begins Wednesday. “Even when I went back for the summer I had three weeks of problems and issues. I took three more weeks off, started up my rehab back up again, started skating right off the hop, skated all summer, worked out all summer and I haven’t had any issues up till now.”
His season began with the flu that was first believed to be mononucleosis and his health deteriorated rapidly.
Then Bertuzzi’s back started to hurt after the first few games of the season. He tweaked it on Feb. 7 in St. Louis and by the third period he lost all feeling in his right leg.
He had no strength in his right leg and things got progressively worse when he got back home and spent four days in the hospital because of the pain.
Then it was two straight weeks of getting needles and resting.
“I felt the best I did last year coming into training camp and that didn’t work out so well,” Bertuzzi said. “We’ll see. I’m happy where I’m at right now. I feel strong. I’m skating better right now. I haven’t had any issues in the morning or at night, so that’s a plus for me.”
Bertuzzi was healthy enough to get back for part of the playoffs, but quickly found himself on the fourth line.
“First game I felt awful,” Bertuzzi recalled. “Second game I felt great, played pretty good minutes, 15 minutes, played great. Then, played six minutes and six minutes after not having played all year and it was really tough to get anything going.
“I don’t blame (coach Mike Babcock) for the decision he made,” Bertuzzi added. “It was probably the right decision he made at the time. Obviously, I wasn’t happy being out. It (ticked) me off quite a bit, but it was the right move at the time. If I’m not going to play many minutes it’s better off for someone else to be in there that can play those kind of minutes and is 100 percent.”
Bertuzzi, 38, is one of 16 forwards battling for a spot in the lineup.
“It’s a full out tryout,” Bertuzzi said. “This is regular training camp for a lot of people, excluding (Henrik) Zetterberg, (Pavel) Datsyuk, (Stephen) Weiss and if I don’t say (Johan Franzen) he’ll be (made) so Mule.
“There are jobs to be had and jobs to lose,” Bertuzzi continued. “You have to go into camp and you have to play for a spot. It’s not like the old days when you pretty much know where you’re stationed in. You have to earn your spot. I’m not ready to be done. I’ll fight for my job. I’ll be ready.”