Todd Bertuzzi prepares to form next ‘two kids and a goat’ line in Detroit

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About a decade ago, Pavel Datsyuk, Boyd Devereaux/Henrik Zetterberg and Brett Hull formed the “two kids and a goat” line for the Detroit Red Wings. Around that time, Todd Bertuzzi was coming into his own as a premier power forward with the Vancouver Canucks.

A lot has changed since then. Bertuzzi earned some fantastic honors (two All-Star appearances, love from fantasy hockey owners for his tendency to score goals and take penalties) before things fell apart after that ugly incident with Steve Moore in 2004. Meanwhile, on the Red Wings’ side, Hull eventually retired, Devereaux faded from the picture and you probably are well aware of how things turned out for Datsyuk and Zetterberg. (If you need clarification: things turned out extremely well for those two “kids.”)

All these years later, Bertuzzi’s found a mild dose of redemption as a decent top-six forward in Detroit, but it looks like he’ll play more of a third line role in 2011-12. Apparently that means he’ll tag along with two rambunctious youngsters in Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader (both 24). To Helene St. James, that means that Bertuzzi-Helm-Abdelkader might just represent the next version of the “two kids and a goat” line.

“It’s a little bit different, but at the same time, you’ve got to have some respect for Helmer and Abby,” Bertuzzi said. “They’re two tremendous players, young kids trying to establish themselves in the league and all that. They offer a lot. They’ve got a lot of speed and they work hard, so it’s just going to be something that if that’s where I’m slotted in, I just have to adjust my game and find a way to complement them.”

Bertuzzi and Helm sit next to each other at Joe Louis Arena and get along very well. Helm had just the right amount of glint in his eyes when he was asked about his new right winger, replying, “I hope I can match his speed and intensity. I wasn’t on the ice when he scored today, so maybe that’s what needs to happen. No, hopefully we can find a way to click. I think we can be a good line. Bert and Abby have more offensive upside than I do, but I think we can be a line that can shut teams down and also contribute.”

(I guess this means that we’ll probably need to wait at least another season for a spiritual sequel to “The Grind Line,” at least if this trio sticks.)

Without seeing that interesting mix in action, the idea might have some legs. Bertuzzi is nowhere near the physical force he once was – possibly because he wants to avoid being cast as a villain again – but he still boasts impressive size. That being said, the best asset he’ll bring to a mostly-grinding line is his soft hands. Helm is particularly well known for possessing blazing speed yet suffering from a general inability to finish the great chances his legs create, so maybe having Bertuzzi around could fill in the blanks.

On the flip side, Bertuzzi is also known for taking his fair share of bad penalties. There could be some concern that his mental lapses might drag down his younger, defensive-minded partners.

Of course, the Red Wings have a few weeks to iron out the wrinkles or throw out that idea altogether. Don’t be surprised if this odd mix ends up being a subtle success during a pivotal season in Detroit, though.

Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues

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Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.

OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.

It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.

Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.

In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.

Seriously, that fight with Deryk Engelland:

That goal included a bit of luck, but hey …

Iginla was named the first star of the contest, and cameras captured his big smile in enjoying a special night. For all the nastiness of that game, it was refreshing to see such a heartwarming moment.

For more on the violence, check out this post on the early stuff and this one on Tkachuk’s missed missile launch on Drew Doughty.

Kings and Canucks will square off in first NHL exhibition games in China

graphic via NHL
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It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.

The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?

“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”

The press conference inspired some jokes tonight.

Some of the best bits came in roping in … Kobe Bryant and David Beckham?

Alrighty then.

Click here for more details.

 

Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.

Blackhawks bolster Central lead, shine harsh light on Penguins’ struggles

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Blame it on injuries if you want, or emphasize the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall hot finish to the season. Either way, Chicago scorched the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 5-1, a contest that felt more or less over by the time the first period ended 4-0 in the Blackhawks’ favor.

The Blackhawks scored by committee on Wednesday, with Artemi Panarin (goal, assist) and Patrick Kane (two assists) being the headliners. Meanwhile, former Penguin Marian Hossa has quietly climbed to 25 goals on the season.

Meanwhile, the Penguins limped through this one and have now lost four consecutive games.

With this result, the Blackhawks look like close to a lock to win the Central Division title. Meanwhile, the Metro crown is virtually unthinkable for Pittsburgh, and the Penguins might also need to accept the likelihood that they may not enjoy home-ice advantage in the first round.

They’d probably accept that more easily if they can get healthier and get back on track. Wednesday was a little worrisome in those regards.