Colaiacovo back to former self

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

Few players will acknowledge they love the idea of training camp, especially under a taskmaster such as Paul Maurice.

Carlo Colaiacovo is one of them. So is Bates Battaglia.

Both are in camp with something to prove -- Colaiacovo that he can survive without getting hurt ; Battaglia that he belongs in the NHL.

Thanks partly to a string of injuries, Colaiacovo has played in just 25 NHL games since he was drafted by Toronto in 2001.

The 23-year-old defenceman has not appeared in a Leafs uniform since last January, when he suffered a concussion in a game against the Ottawa Senators. Not many Leafs were as happy to get back to work yesterday as Colaiacovo.

"I have been waiting for this day for a long time," Colaiacovo said. "I'm not looking back, I'm just looking forward. I've worked hard off the ice, and my conditioning and body strength are where they need to be."

Colaiacovo will be embroiled in one of the toughest battles in camp. Any two of Colaiacovo, Staffan Kronwall, Andy Wozniewski, Jay Harrison, Ian White and Brendan Bell could fill the two open spots on the blue line.

Colaiacovo has no plans to take it easy for fear of getting his bell rung again.

"Absolutely not," Colaiacovo said. "That's the last thing you think about. You worry about playing hard."

Battaglia will as well, since he could be down to his last shot at reclaiming his NHL career. He was second in Marlies scoring last season with 67 points.

But Battaglia has not made a large impact in the NHL since 2001-02, when he had 21 goals and 25 assists for the Carolina Hurricanes and was a solid performer in the team's run to the Stanley Cup final. Sub-par stints with the Colorado Avalanche and Washington Capitals followed before the lockout.

Part of the problem for Battaglia is that even if he blows everyone away, he remains on a two-way contract. Considering younger forwards John Pohl and Alexander Suglobov have one-way deals, meaning they would not get a lesser salary in the minors, Battaglia's future may be partly decided. But the 6-foot-2, 205-pound winger does not have that outlook.

"I know I can play, I have done it before and I plan on doing it again," Battaglia, 30, said. "It's a matter of coming into camp in shape, which I am, and playing like I know I can."


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