Iginla back on the ice, will play in home opener (with video)
Flames captain will keep ironman streak alive after groin heals
For the hand-wringers in Triwood, for the cringers in Willow Park, and for all of the panickers in between, fret not.
Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla, according to the (iron)man himself, will suit up for Sunday’s season opener against the visiting San Jose Sharks, marking his 411th consecutive start.
Iginla, who hasn’t skipped a National Hockey League assignment in five straight winters, skated Wednesday — Day 4 of training camp — with his teammates. Groin problems, it would seem, are over.
“Thankfully, I felt really good — way better than last week — and I’m not expecting it to be an issue,” said Iginla, who operated on a line with Curtis Glencross and (centre) Alex Tanguay. “I expect to be ready and to play well for the team.
“It was great to be back out there, to be a part of it. It’s been a good, high-tempo training camp so far.”
For those not blessed with long memories, Iginla last sat out April 8, 2007, when he was a healthy scratch in the season finale at Colorado. Jim Playfair’s plan was to rest his star for the first-round playoff meeting with the Detroit Red Wings. (Even workhorse Miikka Kiprusoff watched from the bench that evening.)
Since then, No. 12 has buzzed through the regular season — 82, 82, 82, 82, 82.
Nine times in his career, Iginla has skated in the full complement of games.
So perhaps it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that the durable right-winger had been raring to get started Wednesday, for the drills, for the scrimmage. He even absorbed a jolt from Cory Sarich.
“He looked good,” said Michael Cammalleri. “I thought his pace, tempo and stuff — he’s a guy who takes care of himself, so he looked ready to go. I wouldn’t expect anything less from him.”
The wee forward offered one of his soon-to-be signature toothless grins.
“It probably helped him,” said Cammalleri, chuckling. “I mean, he had a few more days of rest than all the rest of us. He probably mixed in a massage. I don’t know what else he did the last few days. Maybe he got to rest when we were all out there working, I don’t know.”
But Iginla had not been without homework.
Coach Bob Hartley, in advance of the compressed schedule, is busily installing a fresh game plan at the Saddledome
“Definitely, there’s a lot of adjustments,” said Iginla. “It’s quite a different system than we’ve played in the past couple years. Every coach has his own style, things he wants to key on. We’ve been going over a lot of video . . . and I’ve been able to watch practice, but it’s definitely different when you get out there and actually try to do what’s on paper — and try to do it at a high speed. Definitely a learning curve for myself.
“The first day, you’re trying to take everything in and be effective and learn on the fly.”
And, at times, re-learn on the fly.
In Wednesday’s scrimmage, Iginla was tested on the penalty kill, something that hasn’t been part of his job description for years.
In 2005-06, under Darryl Sutter, Iginla spent 233 minutes working four-on-five.
Last season? Less than 100 seconds. In fact, in the three years with Brent Sutter, the captain spent a grand total of 11:37 dealing with short-handed situations.
Hartley, obviously, has something in mind.
“Bob talked to different guys . . . that might be on the penalty kill that haven’t been in the past,” said Iginla, 35. “So we’re out there working on it, trying to show that we can do it. Whatever he thinks would be beneficial for the team, we’re all happy to do.”
Certainly, Hartley was all smiles after the latest session.
While the status of newcomers Jiri Hudler (personal) and Roman Cervenka (blood clot) remains up in the air, the new coach at least knows the face of the franchise is back in harness.
“Good news,” said Hartley. “And that’s going to be our policy — we’re going to give you the time (to recover from injuries). Jarome is just like any other player — he’s excited to be back on the ice. We’re getting closer to Day 1 (of the regular season). I can feel the excitement.”
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