SUN Hockey Pool

Game-winner gets Bert glowin'

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:55 AM ET

You don't see many smiles from Todd Bertuzzi.

It's not because he's as surly as his reputation would have you believe.

And it's not because of the fact he's missing a few of his pearly whites.

It's not even that he's not having fun.

He's just had a tough few years.

The way he's started his first season with the Calgary Flames, that's all changing.

He couldn't help but wear a wide grin as he slid into the boards on his backside after scoring what would be the winning goal -- his second of the night and third in three games -- in Tuesday's 5-4 decision over the Colorado Avalanche.

And while he wouldn't outright admit this is the most fun he's had on the ice since his days with the Vancouver Canucks, Bertuzzi says he's enjoying the role he's been given.

"It's nice. I'm getting some pretty good minutes," said the 33-year-old Bertuzzi, whose 19:36 of ice time per game is second among forwards behind linemate Jarome Iginla. "It's quite exciting to come into the rink knowing you're going to get minutes like that and you're going to get opportunities to go out there and make a difference.

"You thrive on that kind of stuff."

So far, he has made more of a difference than many believed possible when the controversial winger was signed as a free agent this summer.

Basically brought in to replace Owen Nolan, who fled to Minnesota for a fatter contract, Bertuzzi has already provided a bigger offensive spark.

Asked if he could remember a time when he started a season with three goals in his first three contests, Bertuzzi doesn't even try.

"It's obviously more important when we win the game," Bertuzzi said of his goal-scoring. "It's one thing to score and lose, but to score and win is something I'd like to help contribute on and continue."

Barring injury, it looks as if the old Bertuzzi is back. Some thought it would be an old-looking Bertuzzi donning the Flaming C this season.

He has reached the 25-goal mark five times in the NHL but had just three tallies in 15 games with the Florida Panthers and Detroit Red Wings after being dealt away by the Canucks after the 2005-06 season.

Last year, he scored 14 in 68 games with the Anaheim Ducks, but injuries again hampered the rugged winger.

There's been no signs of slowing down so far with the Flames, as the leaner Bertuzzi continues to show signs of comfort in Calgary.

"He looks great. He's flying out there. He's making plays," said Craig Conroy, 37, the eldest member of the Flames this season.

"You never know, but three goals to start the season in three games, that's pretty impressive. He's got to be happy with the way things have gone.

"He looks like he's skating as well as I've seen him skate in a long time."

But is he having fun?

Nobody outside the room can tell for sure. Aside from those post-goal celebrations, Bertuzzi's face says all business.

"I think so," said Conroy.

"I think he enjoys coming back (to Canada). There's extra pressure. He's rolling right now."


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