Last second chance

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 1:16 PM ET

CALGARY -- He's running out of second chances.

Once the most feared power forward in the game, Todd Bertuzzi's career has been on a downward spiral since the infamous sucker punch heard around the world.

Yet, there's something different about Bertuzzi's latest attempt to resurrect his career, this time with the Calgary Flames.

SLIMMER

He's a slimmer, fitter, slicker version of the player who toiled with the Vancouver Canucks, terrorizing opponents with a mix of physical prowess and scoring ability.

"I feel quicker," Bertuzzi said. "I don't know if I look quicker, but I feel like I have a little more step in my stride. Whenever you feel good like that, the confidence is going to be up and it's just a matter of being creative and putting the puck in the net."

Down nearly 20 pounds from his playing weight with the Canucks, Bertuzzi has been skating on the Flames top line in the exhibition season.

Following his exile from Vancouver, he's gone through Florida, Detroit, and Anaheim to end on up Jarome Iginla's hip.

It's where he's pencilled in to play once the regular season gets underway.

"Given the opportunity to play with a world-class player like Jarome and a guy like Daymond Langkow, who has been doing it for a long time now, is a bonus," Bertuzzi said. "I have to make sure I come in, try to fill a spot that's needed and try to help the team be successful.

"He (Iginla) is the all-around package. I think the most important thing is his competitiveness. I've never seen a guy as competitive like that. That's why he's been on the top of everybody's list in every category for the past five, six or seven years. I noticed it early in the preseason, I can't imagine what it's going to be like in the regular season. It's exciting."

Thrown a lifeline by the Flames in the version of a one-year $1.95-million contract, the six-foot-three, 227-pound winger intends to make the most of the opportunity.

At 33, he still has a few good hockey years left in him.

"I feel good," Bertuzzi said. "Obviously there is a lot of excitement around here. They made a lot of new changes and I think everyone is excited to see what everyone can do.

"We've had some time to get everyone together. We've had a little bit of success here and we want to continue that."

Heading into last night's exhibition contest against the Edmonton Oilers, Bertuzzi had scored a goal and added an assists in four previous games.

A one-time 46 goal scorer during his peak with the Canucks, Bertuzzi scored 14 last season with the Anaheim Ducks. He had one with the Florida Panthers - who traded Roberto Luongo for his service - then added two more with the Red Wings the previous season.

The lack of production can be attributed to a back problem which has bothered Bertuzzi for the past few years.

Losing weight has helped remedy those problems.

"It's just a matter of getting my back healthy," Bertuzzi said. "Whatever I can do for that, whether it's losing weight or putting some extra attention to it, it'll benefit me in the long run. We'll have a better team, the more I'm healthy, and right now I'm feeling good and I'm excited to start the season."

No matter where he goes, Bertuzzi will be unable to shake the past.

But he can write a new, successful chapter in Calgary.

REGAIN TOUCH

The Flames are optimistic of their chances this season and Bertuzzi is part of the reason why. If he can regain some of the scoring touch he had in Vancouver, he could be primed for a big season.

"He's been really good so far," said Flames head coach Mike Keenan. "He's paid attention to what we wanted him to accomplish and he's mixed in well with his teammates, which is what we've wanted him to do."


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