Slimmer Wellwood can't crack Canucks

STEVE MACFARLANE

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

Sitting and watching from the press box doesn't do Kyle Wellwood much good.

But you won't hear the Vancouver Canucks centre complaining.

His highly publicized battle of the bulge since being dumped by the Toronto Maple Leafs is being won -- no thanks to the inactivity he faces on game nights.

After testing poorly at Canucks training camp, Wellwood has reached acceptable NHL standards.

The Canucks want to see more, but that progress helped him earn a spot as the 13th forward. Should he continue to improve his conditioning and get into the good books of Vancouver head coach Alain Vineault, he could vault into the lineup.

Out of the Toronto hockey spotlight, the 5-foot-10, 189-lb. Wellwood may even be able to shed the image he's lazy and lacks commitment the way he did pounds.

The 25-year-old who has racked up 108 points in 189 NHL games -- all with the Leafs -- won't go as far as calling the perception of him unfair, but says he had to work for his previous success, and a second chance with the Canucks.

"They don't see the day-to-day operations. They don't know what goes into training and the hockey season. When people talk, they're just speculating. I've always done my best to be an NHLer," said Wellwood.

"It was a tough road for me in the first place being a small, skilled player. Drafted fifth round. People talk like it wasn't a lot of work to get there, it makes you wonder: Why would they think I didn't have to work hard?

"It's been a difficult battle dealing with the media's perception."

It's easy to see why the media might have poked a little fun at him -- names like Kyle Well-fed have been heard whispered in hockey hallways -- as he reached the 200-lb. mark this summer, and pictures of the shirtless athlete sporting a gut made their way across the Internet.

The hernia issue that plagued him for nearly two full seasons, and a broken foot suffered in May, made it difficult for Wellwood to get into any shape but round.

"For me, now I can do what everyone else is doing. When I had a hernia, groin injuries, there's really not many exercises, strength building, that you can do because it's just painful," he said.

"As far as skating and weightlifting, you just can't do it.

"It was a tough process for me."

The hard part isn't over just yet. He still has a lot to prove.

Still, he's not complaining about his situation as an extra body in Vancouver.

"This is exactly where I want to be. I had a year and a half there of the same groin problems and we just couldn't get it fixed through surgeries. Now, I'm finally feeling healthy. I feel like a good, confident player again," Wellwood said of the chance to make a comeback.

"I'm definitely excited. Not a lot of guys get second chances. To go through those injuries and have a team take you in and say they'll work with you is important to me.

"I'm going to keep doing what I need to do to play regularly again."

That won't be easy in Vancouver, where his role as a top-six player is impeded by the Sedins, Henrik and Daniel, their linemate Steve Bernier, and second-liners Mason Raymond, Pavol Demitra and Taylor Pyatt.


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