SUN Hockey Pool

Rhett relishes 'Toon up

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

Rhett Warrener never thought he'd be one of those guys.

But after an off-season dedicated to health and fitness, the much leaner looking Calgary Flames rearguard had to admit to being in the best shape of his career.

"Yeah, I think so. I hate hearing guys (say), 'Ah, I'm in the best shape ever. Blah, blah, blah.' That basically says maybe I didn't work hard enough in the past," Warrener said yesterday.

"But I think you do get wiser and smarter as you go on and, as the years go by, you take better care of yourself.

"Certainly, I feel as good as I've ever felt at the start of the exhibition season."

Warrener looks nowhere near his listed weight of 215 lb., and while he won't disclose exact numbers, it's safe to say he dropped more than the 10 pounds Jarome Iginla shed during the last off-season.

"Right now, I'm a lot lighter than I've ever been," Warrener said. "But to see how it feels in a game is the question. I feel good, the body feels really good."

Warrener will get his first chance to test his new form in a game situation tonight when the Flames head to Saskatoon to host the Florida Panthers at the Credit Union Centre (7 p.m., Fan 960).

Warrener is one of a handful of Flames who have ties to Saskatoon and is expected to suit up for the special pre-season contest.

"I grew up there," said Warrener, who moved to Saskatoon when he was 10, and has many family members and friends still living there.

He played parts of four seasons for the WHL Saskatoon Blades before breaking into the NHL with the Panthers in 1995-96.

"This is gonna be fun. It'll be probably, since my first year, my most exciting exhibition game.

"I'm going to enjoy being back there. Maybe the last chance to play in that rink.

Another Saskatchewan product, Robyn Regehr -- who grew up in Rosthern -- is both excited to play in the province and to see how Warrener's new look pans out for a defence corps that will hope to stay healthy all year long.

"He came to my wedding in July in Saskatoon and he was looking pretty good," said Regehr. "You could see that he really put in extra work and dedication to the summer program.

"Hopefully, it pays off for him. He's not only lighter, but I think he's feeling better. I think that's what a lot of people forget -- when you work out in the summer, it's not just for getting into shape and you're losing weight or gaining weight, you also want to be as healthy as possible so you can play every single game."

Warrener hasn't had a lot of luck on that front over 12 years in the league.

He's managed just three seasons of 70-plus games and has been hampered by knee and shoulder injuries over the past couple of campaigns with the Flames.

The addition of Adrian Aucoin, Cory Sarich and Anders Eriksson gives Calgary arguably its strongest blueline in recent memory, but the team can't afford lengthy absences if it wants to compete for the division title in a tough Western Conference.

"Hopefully it results in less injuries and better play, but that's up to me to do, too," said Warrener, who doesn't expect to abandon his feisty style of play just because he's a little lighter on his skates.

"I don't think it changes the way I have to play," he said.

"But the lighter you are -- the less weight you're carrying around -- with a game that's gearing up towards a little more speed, what you can do to help yourself, you should be doing."


Videos

Photos