Cervenka introduces himself to Calgary with a cameo skate
Flames players don’t know much about talented Czech, other than the fact he puts the puck in the net
Call it altitude, call it jet lag. Call it plane legs, call it rust.
A weary Roman Cervenka lasted 45 minutes Thursday in his first informal skate with the Calgary Flames before trudging off the ice a full half an hour before his teammates.
Not that the reason for his cameo appearance mattered. In fact, his mere presence at the WinSport Ice Complex generated a stir among players eager to find out what this 27-year-old sniper is all about.
Unable to communicate much beyond hello, Cervenka set out to introduce himself with his play.
“I don’t know anything about him,” fellow centre Michael Cammalleri said of the Kontinental Hockey League sniper. “I don`t think he speaks much English. I was trying to help him out there a little today with some drills.
“I don’t know much about him, except that he’s a good offensive player who has put up some good numbers in some really good leagues.”
A resourceful sort, Alex Tanguay has gathered some prior intelligence on his new teammate.
“From what I was told, he’s a really crafty player,” Tanguay said. “Good stick. Good smartness on the ice. We`re certainly curious to see how he fits into our team.
“But the most important thing is that he’s healthy for camp and seeing him on the ice today was a good sign for us.”
Consider the fact mere days ago, Flames GM Jay Feaster had no idea if Cervenka could even fly to Calgary from Prague due to a blood clot suffered six weeks back blocking a shot over in Europe.
The Flames faced the very real prospect of having to start 2013 campaign without the prized addition considered to be one of the best — if not the best — hockey players in the world to suit up last season outside the NHL.
Having received clearance to fly from Czech doctors, Cervenka made the 14-hour journey to Calgary on Wednesday and hit the ice Thursday morning with his new teammates.
Cervenka still needs to pass his medical with the Flames — as does every player — before taking part in formal training camp session as early as Sunday.
The season is expected to start next weekend with one possible scenario having the Flames opening Jan. 19 on the road in Edmonton followed by a home date Jan. 20 against the San Jose Sharks.
According to countryman Jiri Hudler, Cervenka is 100 per cent ready to go and simply in need of some hard practice before the upcoming 48-game grind.
Little, if anything, can be garnered from watching informal session before camp — especially from a guy coming off a 14-hour journey across the Atlantic. Still, Cervenka made a good first impression.
“He looks good with his stick,” Tanguay said. “He looks smart positionally, so we’ll see how it develops and how he feels, that’s most important for all of us.
“We all want to have our bodies ready for the start of camp.”
Of all the bodies in camp, Cervenka is clearly the X-factor. Pencilled in as a top-six forward and top-two centreman, his success — or lack thereof — is paramount in determining the fate of the Flames.
More of a known commodity is Hudler, a free-agent pickup last summer from the Detroit Red Wings.
Hudler also made his Flames debut Thursday at WinSport.
“Been playing against him for years,” Cammalleri said. “A smart, heady player. Good skilled player. His production has always been good with whatever he’s been given.
“He knows how to make plays all over the ice and score goals.”
Hudler collected 25 goals and 50 points last season in the Motor City, and his value can`t be understated even in simply making his countryman Cervenka more comfortable in a strange land.
“Everywhere he played, he was successful,” Hudler said of Cervenka. “This is the best league in the world. It’s faster than Europe. But at the same time, the rink is smaller, and he’s smart enough to get the pucks to the net and find the open spots.
“I believe he’s going to be real, real good, really soon.”
One thing is certain: Feaster made good last summer on his pledge to upgrade the raw offensive talent with the addition of Hudler and Cervenka to a forward group that includes Tanguay, Cammalleri, Jarome Iginla, Curtis Glencross and rookie Sven Baertschi.
“The more skilled guys you play with, the more you can provide for one another,” Cammalleri said. “The more skill you throw together, the more chance of generating chemistry you have.
“In a season, not everybody is going to play great every night. But when you have players making plays around you, it helps. So one night it’s your turn, and one night it’s his turn.
“Everybody lifts each other up.”
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