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Todd Bertuzzi is a polarizing figure in the NHL, and his offseason signing by the Calgary Flames wasn't universally applauded by the hometown fans. The 13-year veteran, however, is winning the Flames' faithful over with a strong start for his new team.
After leading the club to its first win, Bertuzzi looks to continue his hot start as the Flames host the archrival Edmonton Oilers in a Northwest Division matchup Friday night.
Bertuzzi is a two-time All-Star left winger with 243 goals and 340 assists in 796 games, but he may be best known for blindsiding Colorado center Steve Moore and punching him in the side of the head while playing for Vancouver in 2004.
The hit left Moore with three fractured vertebrae in his neck, among other injuries, and got Bertuzzi suspended for the rest of that season. The incident continues to follow the 6-foot-3, 245-pound forward, who still gets booed in arenas throughout the league.
Bertuzzi's past made him a controversial signing in July, but Flames fans appear to be warming up to him after he scored twice to lead Calgary (1-1-1) to a 5-4 victory over Colorado on Tuesday. He has three goals in his first three games.
"Todd played an excellent game for us, the whole line had jump and you could see that he's recapturing the form that we've seen in the past and that's exciting for our team and our fans," Flames coach Mike Keenan said Tuesday.
Bertuzzi redirected some of the praise to Jarome Iginla, the team's leading scorer in each of the last seven seasons who had a short-handed goal and an assist Tuesday for his first two points of 2008-09.
"You have to give credit to our captain," Bertuzzi said. "He stepped up and fought their tough guy (Cody McCormick), did awesome against him, got a goal and an assist, and turned the game around. That's what leadership is all about and that's why we're moving in the right direction."
Calgary's first meeting with Edmonton (2-0-0) could serve as a progress report for the Flames. The Oilers beat Anaheim 3-2 on Wednesday, getting 23 shots over the final 40 minutes after managing five in the first period.
"The second half, we took it from them and played better," said Mathieu Garon, who made 33 saves. "We worked hard and took more shots on net, that's how we are going to score goals."
Like the Flames, the Oilers got a big lift from an offseason acquisition. Lubomir Visnovsky, brought to Edmonton in a trade after playing his first seven seasons with Los Angeles, scored a power-play goal 2:41 into the third period for the winner.
"It was my first shot. The coaches were saying after the second period to shoot more," Visnovsky said. "It was very important for our power play and for my confidence in our next game."
A win in that game would give the Oilers their first 3-0-0 start since 2005-06, when they finished with 95 points and made it to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since winning the Cup in 1990.
The Oilers and Flames were 4-4-0 in the 2007-08 season series, also splitting four meetings in Calgary.