SUN Hockey Pool

Bertuzzi back skating

Todd Bertuzzi might make his return from injury to the Flames lineup tonight. (Sun Media/Al Charest)

Todd Bertuzzi might make his return from injury to the Flames lineup tonight. (Sun Media/Al Charest)

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 2:56 PM ET

It sure looked like Todd Bertuzzi was ready for game action.

He had his game face on -- even though it was just for fun -- as he swatted Dion Phaneuf's stick out of his hands during a drill in his first practice with the team in a couple of weeks.

"It felt OK. I haven't been skating in two weeks, skated a handful of times here and there, so it's nice to get back out," Bertuzzi said.

"Knock on wood, it felt decent."

Sitting out five games with a hip flexor injury has the 33-year-old veteran itching to return. He's hesitant to declare himself fit for tonight's matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets, however.

The idea of resting another week with the all-star break a couple of days away could be irresistible if Bertuzzi experiences pain this morning.

"With your hip, you've got to be careful, make sure it's not something that continues to linger," Bertuzzi said.

"It's something I've never had before. It's a little unusual for me. I've been working hard off the ice to get it strong enough to get back and play.

"It depends how it reacts (today)."

Head coach Mike Keenan has noted improvement over the past few days as Bertuzzi has skated alone and hasn't ruled him out for tonight's tilt.

"He's improving, and we'll make the evaluation (today). He's made some progress in the past few days. That was indicated by the fact he was in practice (yesterday)," Keenan said. "The medical team will determine the status for (tonight)."

That means the status of defenceman Jim Vandermeer hangs in the balance.

Still recovering from a broken ankle, the freelance forward who took Bertuzzi's spot up front knows he might have to return to the sidelines.

It's also because rookie Adam Pardy has played so well in his absence and because a few shifts on the back end in Denver showed Vandermeer wasn't yet ready for all the demands of the blueline.

"It's in the back of my mind, what's going to happen," Vandermeer said. "You could tell the backwards skating still isn't quite there. It's just a matter of time. If Bert comes back right away and I'm not ready to move back on D, then obviously I'm probably the odd-man out, and that's just the way it is.

"I've just got to make sure I get back skating the way I can."

His bone has healed, but there is still pain.

"It's not overwhelming pain. I can tolerate it. It's just a matter of being able to trust my leg underneath me," Vandermeer said. "Crossing over backwards, (it's not good) if you're not feeling the strength or you feel a little bit uncomfortable. With guys coming down on you taking you wide, you've got to be comfortable."


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