Originally written January 08, 2013 on Fox Sports Detroit:
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TROY, Mich. -- Don't be surprised if the Red Wings rely on Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk even more than usual when the season gets underway. That's not just because the Euro Twins, as they are sometimes known, are their best players. They are also among the players who are already in game shape from playing in Europe. Zetterberg has been playing for EV Zug in the Swiss League, where he had 16 goals and 16 assists in 23 games. Datsyuk has been playing for CSKA Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), where he had 11 goals and 25 assists in 31 games and was a team-best plus-14. Valtteri Filppula was playing for Jokerit in his native Finland but has been out for several weeks after spraining his knee. He only recently started skating so he'll also be playing catch-up. A lot of teams have a lot of players who went overseas to play so those teams might have a bit of an advantage at the beginning, especially since there won't be any preseason games. "Obviously theyre going to have an extra step on everyone else, so Im pretty thankful that our two superstars were playing and can carry the load until the rest of us can catch up," Todd Bertuzzi said at the Troy Sports Center. The ones who didn't go to Europe have stayed in shape but being in shape is a different thing from being in game shape. "Those guys in Europe have been playing their season like normal," Darren Helm said. "Maybe a little bit different style hockey, bigger ice. But they've been playing, they know what game mode is like. Hitting, back checking, forechecking, system play. "We're not really used to that. We try to do a little bit of that every now and then, but you can't compare anything that we do practicing until it gets to a game situation. We're going to be a little bit behind. "It's definitely up to us to take it upon ourselves to really take these next two weeks and get back into game shape. I'm not too sure what (coach Mike Babcock) is going to have for us for practices. It's going to be a pretty tough test for everyone to get back to game level that we're used to." Players like defenseman Brendan Smith, who has been with the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins during the lockout, will also be on his game at the start. The Wings are all experienced hockey players who know what to do, so it's about being able to do those things quickly. "You better get up to game speed fast because it's coming fast and you've got to be ready for it," Mikael Samuelsson said. "If you're ready for it, I don't think it should be too much of a problem. Most problem, I said it before, that's the timing. You see guys coming at you and you've got to play the puck. Games create that so you've got to wait and see." Coach Bertuzzi As a coach, Todd Bertuzzi is more Charlie Chaplin than Mike Babcock. During the lockout, NHL players could not have contact with team officials, including coaches. So those players who did not opt to play in Europe or elsewhere were on their own. That's when veterans like Bertuzzi had to step up, as he has recently during informal practices at the Troy Sports Center. When you're at Joe Louis Arena watching Babcock run practice, you can hear him from the opposite side of the rink. Bertuzzi? Not so much. "Bert is great," Mikael Samuelsson said. "We joked around, he showed a drill yesterday when he didn't say a word but it worked out great anyway." Ian White described "coach" Bertuzzi as the strong, silent type.'' Darren Helm didn't seem to mind Bertuzzi as coach. "I like Bert as a coach. He's quiet," Helm said. "He ran a few drills without even saying a word. I'm sure it's going to be a little bit different with (Babcock) taking the ship again. But obviously we're all really excited and looking forward to getting that opportunity to get back out there." Bertuzzi, who helped coach his son's team during the lockout, says he's not interested in taking Babcock's job. "Not with these kind of guys, no," Bertuzzi said. "With kids, yes. They don't talk back." Of course, when the coach doesn't say anything, how much talking "back" can there be?
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