Plante back playing with an edge

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:50 AM ET

PENTICTON, B.C. -- So much for easing his way back in.

Defenceman Alex Plante made his presence felt physically in Edmonton's first game of the prospects tournament, knocking Vancouver's Aaron Volpatti into the side boards -- and very nearly out of consciousness -- midway through the first period.

He also roughed up another Canuck by the Edmonton net, leading to a fight with Taylor Ellington.

For a player who's been haunted by injury trouble the last few years, including a season- ending concussion last winter, it's a big step.

"I'm trying to find that line where you don't want to go over the top but you want to make sure you have a presence," said the six-foot-four, 225-pounder, who went 15th overall in 2007.

"It's going to have to come with communication with the coaching staff wherever I am. I'm willing to do whatever they want me to do."

Once again, Plante is trying to make up lost ground after a season gone wrong.

A series of injuries limited him to just 36 games back in 2007-08, hurting his development to the point that he looked like he might be a bust. But he bounced back strongly the following year, scoring 45 points in 68 games and leading the Calgary Hitmen in hits.

Then, with his career seemingly back on track, his first year in the American Hockey League was cut short when he collided with teammate Kip Brennan during a pre-game skate in February.

Plante was out before he hit the ice and didn't play again.

Despite the stunts in his progress, he's been a study in determination.

"The ladder game is starting to get a little irritating, going up and down the roller coaster," said the 21-year-old, sporting a five-stitch cut on his lip courtesy of a high stick in practice.

"But, if anything, you have to take a positive from it. I've learned to bounce back from injuries, how to manage injuries and hopefully how to prevent injuries.

"But that's something I don't want to think about. I want to be assertive and I want to play hard."

He did on Sunday, and management likes what it saw.

"He's involved," said GM Steve Tambellini. "When I see him he just looks a year older to me.

"Assertiveness in his game is what we're looking for. We want him to be in people's face and be aggressive. It's all part of growing, but I think he's going to have a good year."


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