SUN Hockey Pool

Mark-ing his territory

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 1:15 PM ET

Jamie Lundmark is all too aware there are no guarantees in the NHL.

When he was drafted by the New York Rangers ninth overall in 1999, Lundmark was supposed to be one of the can't-miss kids. Nine years later, he's still battling to be a bona fide NHLer.

Which makes the Edmonton product's decision to sign with the Flames a head-scratcher.

A team loaded with enough forwards on one-way deals to fill their NHL spots, it's an uphill climb for anyone else make Calgary's roster.

You'd think a player like Lundmark, who signed a two-way contract in the summer, would want to steer clear and choose to ink with a team where his chance of skating in the NHL would be better.

Lundmark, 27, doesn't see it that way.

"It was an easy choice to sign here," he said. "It was a good opportunity for me. Darryl (Sutter) and the people here know what I can do."

More importantly, they're in his corner, which is a big deal. After all, it's easy to find people who don't believe in you.

"He's a straight-up guy, will tell you what's going on. I felt Darryl believed in me and would give me a legitimate shot to make the team. It's a big reason I came here, for sure. Going somewhere else, I might not get that," Lundmark said. "Darryl's loyal to his guys, and if you can get the belief of a guy like Darryl Sutter, it's a big step on your side."

Lundmark had to prove the legitimate look was warranted, and considering he stuck around right through to the end, including last night's final pre-season tilt, he must be doing something right.

A big part is showing he's a different player than the one the club saw in 2006-07, when he struggled before being dealt to Los Angeles in the trade that returned Craig Conroy to the Flames' fold.

In 39 contests with Calgary that year, Lundmark didn't score a single goal and had just four helpers.

"I'm disappointed in that season," he said. "I think I've learned a lot the last two years, become a little older and a little smarter.

"The last couple of years, I've tweaked my game and worked on what I really needed to do to get back to the NHL. I think I've played pretty much the way I wanted this whole camp. I could produce more, but I've been really trying to be smart and trying to be dependable."

A turning point in his career, he'll admit, was spending a couple of months last season with Dynamo Moscow in Russia.

Sure, he could make a great living in Europe, but the sojourn to Russia told Lundmark where he really wanted to play and made him decide what he'd do to follow that dream.

"Thinking back, it seems like I wasn't even there. It was a good experience and learned a lot about myself. It was good for me," he said. "I learned I wasn't ready to play over there, feel I should be over here."

With the final decisions to come in the next day or so, it's most likely Lundmark will be ticketed to the AHL's Quad City Flames.

Heading into last night's game, though, he wasn't trying to avoid that possibility. He was looking at the clash with the Oilers as one last audition to be the one on speed dial when Calgary needs reinforcements.

"You've got to think about it that way, but I'm really just trying to play, do what I can to make the team," he said.

"I can't put too much pressure on myself. I really have nothing to lose right now."


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