'Mark of a true NHLer

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:04 AM ET

ST. LOUIS -- The chance Jamie Lundmark sacrificed for has come.

Now it's up to the Calgary Flames forward to make the most of it.

Lundmark, summoned from the minors in time for last night's clash with the St. Louis Blues, knew this season could very well be his last shot at the NHL.

He spent the summer dedicated to training at a level he'd never reached before.

He turned down offers to play in Europe.

He structured his contract with the Flames so the AHL salary was low enough he wouldn't need to clear re-entry waivers if called up from the minors.

After partaking in yesterday's morning skate at the Scottrade Center, it was easy to see he thought those decisions were worth it.

"I'm excited. Definitely excited," he said as the sweat from the morning workout poured down his face.

"I worked pretty hard to try and get back here. I'm going to work hard and do whatever I can to help the team win.

"The big thing for me was just trying to get back into the NHL and do everything I can, even contract-wise, to do that."

Lundmark, who spent a year with Calgary over a pair of seasons before being dealt to Los Angeles in the trade that re-acquired Craig Conroy, now has 233 NHL games under his belt, but there was something special about last night's in St. Louis after it became a very real possibility his big-league days were over.

"You appreciate it now. I look back at playing with the Rangers, playing at Madison Square Garden when I was 21 or 22, it doesn't even seem real and you don't really appreciate it when you're that young," said Lundmark, 27.

"Now, I have a family, one child and another on the way, and I really appreciate this, coming up here, and all the little things that go with it. It's the best league in the world."

Which is why he didn't go to Europe, even though he could have made much more money this season than by spending the bulk of the year in the AHL with Quad City.

"Anybody that plays hockey wants to play in the NHL," said Lundmark, who had a sojourn to Moscow for a couple of months last season.

"You grow up as a kid watching NHL games and work your whole life to get here. I felt I could come back and play.

"If you're any type of competitive athlete, hockey player, you want to play in this league."

Lundmark's winding career started with so many expectations. Chosen ninth overall in 1999, he spent one full season in the minors before cracking the Rangers roster.

Post-lockout, though, it began to derail. Early in the 2005-06 season, he was dealt from the Rangers to Phoenix. At the deadline, the Coyotes flipped him to Calgary.

He had a solid run with the Flames -- 10 points in 12 regular season games -- but struggled the following year with no goals and four assists in 39 games. He was then traded to Los Angeles.

The Kings didn't retain his rights, so he spent last season with Moscow Dynamo and then the AHL's Lake Erie Monsters. In the summer, GM Darryl Sutter signed Lundmark to a one-year, two-way contract and his response has been to become a better all-around player.

"I think I've learned a lot. I'm still getting better as I get older, so I think I've improved my game and it's starting to show," said Lundmark, who leads the Quad City Flames in scoring with 30 points in 28 games. Lundmark collected an assist last night.

"I'm trying to keep the same mindset as I did in training camp. I want to keep things simple, use my skills down low, make good decisions, play good defence.

"It's the same mindset I had in camp and want to keep going from there ... The first thing I wanted to do was get back here, and now I want to play as well as I can while I'm here."


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