Bert hopes it's worth weight

RANDY SPORTAK

, Last Updated: 11:19 AM ET

The reading when Todd Bertuzzi stood atop the scale was 226 lb.

It's been a few years since the Calgary Flames forward played at that weight.

"Uhh, I think in midget or pee wee," he said. "I had a good year then, so ..."

New city. New team.

New Bertuzzi? At least physically.

When the hulking winger was at his peak, he was the ultimate power forward and terrorized opponents with his 6-foot-3 frame carrying upwards of 250-lb.

"Yeah, a big difference, but the league was way different back then," he said after going through the opening day of training camp's battery of tests.

"It was clutch and grab. You could carry people around and throw them around. It's nothing like that any more. You've got to be quick and agile on your feet.

"It just seems where the NHL's going, guys are coming (to camp) in phenomenal shape. You see some of the scores guys are putting up and it's ridiculous. You're seeing what top performers and athletes the guys are."

Flames head coach Mike Keenan said he plans to start the on-ice sessions of training camp with Bertuzzi on the left wing of a line with Jarome Iginla and Daymond Langkow.

Bertuzzi's new linemate skated with him a couple of times leading up to camp and is amazed at the difference in his size, but Iginla noted it's not like Bertuzzi is now a lightweight or a finesse player.

"He's still a pretty big guy," Iginla said. "I was gonna guess he's 220, but 226 is still a big guy. I'm around 200 and still giving up 25 pounds. He looks ready to go, excited to play, and in shape.

"Everybody knows him as a big power forward, but he's extremely skilled and really great in front of the net and a great passer."

Bertuzzi arrived in Calgary a month ago, in part to work closely with the team's strength and conditioning coach Rich Hesketh. He's about 10-lb. lighter than he was to begin last season and said after taking to the ice with his new teammates during informal skates can notice the difference.

"You can only get so quick as a larger fella," said the 33-year-old. "It's just a matter of getting your body into a routine and feeling comfortable with what you're playing at and it'll all come through.

"We'll give it a whirl and see how it goes. At least I'm flexible enough that if I need to put on a little more I can."

Now the test will be to parlay those changes into success on the ice.

In 2002-03, Bertuzzi had his career season -- 46 goals, 97 points -- but it's been a struggle offensively since. Last season with Anaheim, he netted 14 goals and 40 points, which actually was a decent bounce-back from the injury-plagued 2006-07 season, but Keenan believes fans here will see a difference in Bertuzzi from the past few years.

"I think he's in a good space mentally. I think he's positive about himself, about his opportunity here, about his teammates," Keenan explained. "He views this, I'm sure, as a good, new start.

"I think he'll embrace that challenge and do well."

For what it's worth, Bertuzzi is excited about playing for a coach he feels will be in his corner.

"It's always comforting when you're wanted, especially being around Mike and knowing Mike for a long time. He's a good guy," Bertuzzi said. "I know what to expect, he's hard and he demands a lot out of you, but at the same time he has a lot of respect for his players.

"He's knows how far to push individuals to get the best out of him, and that's what happened to me."


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