SUN Hockey Pool

Fleury's chances improving

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 1:59 PM ET

Watching prospects leave camp for Abbotsford this week, Theoren Fleury must be feeling a little better about his chances of staying in Calgary.

The Flames shipped another seven bodies to their AHL affiliate yesterday, leaving 32 with the NHL club.

Among those sent packing yesterday was Kyle Greentree, whose 39 goals in the minors last season prompted Calgary Flames GM Darryl Sutter to suggest he'd get a long look in camp this year with offensive holes on the wings left to plug after the departure of Todd Bertuzzi and Michael Cammalleri.

Greentree going down after a disappointing pair of pre-season games without a point eliminates yet another potential scoring forward on Fleury's list of competitors.

David Van der Gulik is another who was officially made a member of the Heat yesterday.

One game was all he got with the Flames.

Fleury has played in three exhibition tilts and will no doubt see action in at least one more if not both the remaining pre-season games tonight in Edmonton against the Oilers and Saturday back home in Calgary against the Vancouver Canucks.

Still considered a longshot, his odds are improving thanks to a goal and a pair of assists in his last two outings.

Scoring the shootout winner at the Saddledome in his first NHL action in six years took the pre-season story to a serious level.

Increasingly confident and seemingly improving on a day-to-day basis, the former face of the franchise is earning the extra looks.

Now the 5-foot-6 winger has to prove he's worth more with the big club than Jamie Lundmark -- who has pumped out a pair of goals and two assists through three games so far -- young Swede Mikael Backlund, an energetic Brett Sutter and arguably even Dustin Boyd, David Moss and newcomer Nigel Dawes to earn a spot on one of the top three lines expected to score with regularity.

No easy task when you consider Fleury -- who has no contract aside from the tryout paperwork -- is competing against guys much younger than him. And they will all be paid by the Flames whether they play here or in Abbotsford.

In case of a tie, that fact could break it in favour of the prospects.

Counting the little guy out, however, is something nobody should do -- especially with more of his friendly rivals heading to southern B.C.

Uttered hundreds of times before Fleury reported to camp in the shape of his life and hundreds more once he shook off the rust of his first pre-season game to make waves in the shootout and his next on-ice exhibition, those words of doubt are fewer as the days tick by and Fleury's name fails to grace any of the cuts made by the Flames.

Changing minds is what he did two decades ago when breaking into a league considered too big for him.

Fleury seems to be doing it all over again.

In another week or so, we'll find out where it takes him.

STEVE.MACFARLANE@SUNMEDIA.CA


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