Comeback kid

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 6:20 AM ET

Without going into details, Patrik Nilson summed up his nightmare in a nutshell. "My worst summer ever last year," Nilson said.

It was June 2003 and the younger brother of Flames forward Marcus Nilson was floored with news he'd failed a drug test.

The centre, who'd signed a contract with Djurgarden of the Swedish Elite League, tested positive for nandrolone -- a steroid -- and banished from his country's highest league for 18 months.

Nilson has maintained the stimulant came from an over-the-counter vitamin purchased in Florida while visiting his brother, who had been toiling with the Panthers at the time.

It didn't matter and the younger Nilson found himself without a job and uncertain about his future.

That's when the Florida Panthers came forward. Unable to play in the NHL because he hadn't been drafted, Nilson was offered an AHL/ECHL contract with Florida's minor-league affiliate in San Antonio.

He spent most of the season with CHL Laredo, netting 27 goals and 65 points in 60 regular-season games before helping the Texas club claim the league title.

This summer, it was the Flames who came calling, inking the 23-year-old after liking what they were getting from his brother.

"I'm happy about (the chances I've been given in North America)," he said after yesterday's intra-squad game at Centennial Arenas. "Florida gave me a shot last year, too. I'm so happy that Calgary wanted to sign me."

When Calgary GM-head coach Darryl Sutter acquired the elder Nilson from Florida, he let it be known he was interested in the younger half of the tandem, too.

"When my brother came here, was traded here, he had a talk with Darryl and he told my brother he had an eye on me," Nilson said.

"That was awesome. I always liked Calgary."

A peek at him during last night's tilt and you can see why. Though not very big -- he's generously listed at 6 ft. -- Nilson stood out with his skills.

He also showed he's no shrinking violet, either, showing off an edge by handing out plenty of solid checks and a bit of lumber.

You could say he's very much the spitting image of his brother.

"We're a bit the same, I think," he said. "I don't see him play that much. It's up to other guys to figure that out.

"It's from our dad (Borje), I think. He's pretty gritty, too."

Now it's a matter of seeing whether that grit and skill are enough to earn Nilson a spot in the AHL. The Flames can place a handful of forwards in Lowell.


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