SUN Hockey Pool

Seven heaven at 'Dome

ERIC FRANCIS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:02 AM ET

They roared during warm-up when he was introduced as the Flames' starting left winger.

They cheered during the national anthem when he was shown on the Jumbotron.

Midway through the third period there was a very real fear the 'Dome's roof would've been blown off had he converted on a breakaway that had half the patrons scrambling to their feet.

So much for public sentiment being mixed on Todd Bertuzzi.

As expected, the stage is officially set for the former Public Enemy No. 1 to be a cult hero in Calgary.

Granted, it's how he handles his time on that stage will determine how long he remains popular.

But that's also part of the excitement feeding the "re-tooled" Flames.

Last night, in a meaningless game against a faceless Florida franchise, the anticipation for those who decided to use their tickets revolved entirely around seeing how Big Bert would fit in with Jarome Iginla on the top line.

Wearing an associate captain's 'A' and playing the left side on a line with Iginla and 19-year-old Mikael Backlund, No. 7 was undeniably the centre of attention.

And, well, let's just say chemistry takes time. Iginla and Bert will spend the next month building it as it clearly wasn't an instant fit. Granted, little more can be expected when playing with a 19-year-old who looked lost.

Fact is, together the trio failed to click which, in the grand scheme of things, means absolutely nothing.

Sure, early on he made a nice feed to Iginla, who one-timed a blast toward the net.

He also made a routine hit on Jay Bouwmeester that drew an unusually loud response from the masses.

Other than that, the slimmed-down Bertuzzi played, well, like it was the first exhibition game of the year.

It's not so much a criticism as it is a reminder Bertuzzi is back in the Canadian fishbowl he chose to swim in.

The duo will have plenty of time to develop the chemistry Flames fans have been dreaming of ever since he was signed as a free agent.

If not, he'll fit somewhere on a decidedly deeper squad.

"You never know if it will or won't -- you have to give it an opportunity," said Bertuzzi about the potential fit alongside the Flames captain, linking one of the game's former top power forwards to the current NHL leader.

"I think it has the makings to be pretty good. But at the same time, you've got to be cautious and open to anything -- it's about the team, not Jarome or I.

"He's more of a shooter and Iggy does basically everything out there. It makes my life easier and I hope to make his easier, too."

Asked if he was comfortable on the left side, the longtime right winger offered interesting insight.

"I prefer to play on the left. Two years ago, I had an issue with my eye and had some problems on the right side picking up the puck," said Bertuzzi.

"I had trouble for a while there finding it and couldn't hit the man across or whatever. I had fluid in there and it wouldn't go away, so I had a procedure done that got rid of some of it. At the same time, I think it's better on the left side -- I can see more of the ice and make plays a lot easier and it's easier to pick up the puck."

While several crafty pass attempts went for not, he seemed to have an eye for the biscuit late in a 1-1 game when he found himself on a breakaway he finished with a backhand deke he lofted over the net.

"He loves to pass the puck," said Iginla, revealing a penchant few locals were likely aware of. "He's got a great presence in front of the net and he's a great playmaker. He's not one-dimensional and I think, as a line, I think we can bring a little bit of it all. But it will take time -- we've only had three practices together and practice is so different."

It certainly is.

So is life with Big Bert around.


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