Slow comeback for Bertuzzi

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:12 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- Todd Bertuzzi hoped to make a splash in his return to the NHL, but the Vancouver Canucks forward has created barely a ripple thanks to a sore back.

Reinstated after a 17-month suspension for his attack on Steve Moore of the Colorado Avalanche, Bertuzzi saw action in just two pre-season games and was again a spectator at GM Place last night as the Edmonton Oilers came calling.

"I'm where I'm usually at," Bertuzzi said of his preparation for regular season. "Unfortunately, I've had to take a little bit of time off to rest my back. That's been the disappointing thing.

"I wanted to come in and play as many games as I could so I could get the feel back and all that. I'm pretty confident in these four or five days here, I'll get my skating legs back and be ready."

Bertuzzi, 30, didn't injure his back. It's a case of wear and tear for the six-foot-three, 240-pound left-winger and member of Vancouver's top line with Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison.

Bertuzzi wasn't in the line-up when the Canucks lost 5-4 in a shootout at Rexall Place Sept. 21, and he was on the shelf again for a 4-2 win over the Calgary Flames Friday.

He didn't play in Vancouver's three pre-season road games, so he's yet to see action outside the friendly confines of G.M. Place. In the wake of the Moore incident, it goes without saying Bertuzzi's in for a rough ride from fans outside city limits, even after his back stops nagging him.

"If they pay for their ticket and come to the rink to do that, so be it," he said. "I'll contribute the way I know how. That's on the ice."

Bertuzzi, well-received by Vancouver fans during his limited return, chatted with Ryan Smyth of the Oilers yesterday morning.

"I think when it comes to athletes, our sport has the best off-ice respect for each other," Bertuzzi said. "We've got a good group of guys. We're all here for one purpose, and that's to play hockey."

ANSON A BARGAIN: Former Oiler Anson Carter has landed in Vancouver at a bargain price of $1 million this season after a couple of forgettable NHL campaigns.

Carter, 31, bounced between the New York Rangers, Washington Capitals and Los Angeles Kings during the 2003-04 season, then spent the entire NHL lockout recovering from hernia surgery.

He's looking to bounce back.

"More from a pride standpoint," Carter said. "That last year, things didn't go that well in New York. Then, I went to Washington and was back on track. I was having fun playing again.

"Then, there was a little bit of a fire-sale in salaries. That was kind of tough and I rushed out to Los Angeles without getting prepared properly and got hurt in the first couple games."

Carter, who had 157 points in 211 games with the Oilers from 2001 to 2003, signed with the Canucks Aug. 17. The silky smooth right-winger, who was earning $2.8 million two seasons ago, had feelers from several teams.

With just 15-13-28 in 77 games with the Rangers, Capitals and Kings, Carter figures he's got more good seasons in him. He's been skating on a line with Daniel and Henrik Sedin.

"Definitely," says Carter, asked if he can return to his form with the Oilers, a stint that included career-highs of 28-32-60 in 2001-02. "When I was a free agent, I wasn't concerned with the money. I've played almost 10 years now. Money isn't an issue.

"I wanted to go to a situation that made sense for me. It was important to go to a hockey environment."

RANFORD IN WRECK: Former Oiler Bill Ranford got into a car wreck Thursday while on his way to a briefing for a Raise-A-Reader, an annual literacy campaign.

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell, Vancouver police chief Jamie Graham and Vancouver Province publisher Dennis Skulsky, on the way to a fund-raising breakfast, stopped and assisted Ranford, who won the 1990 Conn Smythe Trophy with the Oilers.

Ranford, at GM Place yesterday for the morning skate, wasn't seriously injured, but he has a stiff neck.


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