CALGARY – Calgary Flames head coach Mike Keenan will test out newcomer Todd Bertuzzi on a line with captain Jarome Iginla and Daymond Langkow when the NHL team holds its first training camp workout Saturday.
Flames players reported to the Pengrowth Saddledome on Friday for medicals and fitness training and Keenan said he was eager to start up the on-ice sessions.
“I think there’s more of a buzz this year than I’ve felt in a long time,” Keenan said. “Yes I’m excited about the start and anxious to see the team on the ice.”
Keenan, who coached Bertuzzi when the two were with the Vancouver Canucks in the late 1990s, said he’s excited to see what the six-foot-three, 226-pound forward can accomplish this season.
“He’s more experienced than when I coached him,” Keenan said. “He’s in a good space mentally.
“He’s positive about himself and about his opportunity here he views this I’m sure as a good new start.”
Keenan confirmed he’ll test out Bertuzzi on Calgary’s top line to start training camp.
“I’m going to start with he, Langkow and Iginla and go from there and evaluate the players as we go along,” he said.
Bertuzzi said he’s looking forward to playing for Keenan once again.
“He demands a lot out of you, but at the same time he has a lot of respect for his players,” he said. “He knows how far to push individuals to get the best out of them.”
Bertuzzi, 33, a 12-year NHL veteran, said it was nice to get a vote of confidence from Iginla prior to the Flames signing him as a free agent July 7.
“It’s pretty flattering,” said Bertuzzi. “He’s probably one of the top-three players in the NHL right now.
“It’s an opportunity that I’m that looking forward to. I had a chance to play with Jarome a little bit at the Olympics. I played a little bit with him on the power play and it was pretty comfortable. Hopefully I’ll have a good camp and we get some chemistry going and we’ll be a good 1-2 punch.”
Iginla said he’s impressed with Bertuzzi’s fitness level heading into the season.
“He looks great,” he said. “Everybody knows him as a big power forward, but he’s extremely skilled and really great in front of the net obviously, but a really good passer.
“I think it’ll be exciting. I’ve had an opportunity to play with him before and I liked it.”
Iginla is also excited to see what newcomers Mike Cammalleri, Rene Bourque and Curtis Glencross can accomplish this season.
“Every year is exciting,” said Iginla, noting the coaching staff has many options up front because so many forwards can play different positions. “You come in and every team goes through different changes.
“There’s so many different options for Mike as far as where guys are going to play and who fits best together and until you see it during games you never know.”
After a few days of on-ice sessions, the Flames will get right into action Tuesday night with a pre-season game against the Florida Panthers, the first of games in four nights.
“Right away getting into game action and getting hit and being able to be prepared for that before the season starts is always good,” Bertuzzi said.
Keenan said the seven-game exhibition schedule will give him and his coaching staff a great chance to evaluate his squad heading into the start of the season.
“It gives you an opportunity to move some lines around and people around,” he said. “We are going to try a lot of different things, different combinations and different pairings.”
As for his No. 1 netminder, Keenan said he expects Miikka Kiprusoff to work hard in training camp to start the season at the top of his game.
“It’s not just Miikka,” Keenan said. “All of us have to get better and that’s going to be the solution that we’re looking for to continue to improve.
“Everyone understands that.”
Kiprusoff shrugged off any speculation that his relationship with Keenan soured after being pulled in favour of backup netminder Curtis Joseph in Game 7 of a first-round playoff loss to the San Jose Sharks.
“Everything’s all right,” Kiprusoff said. “It’s more like everybody outside (is) talking and saying there is something, but I always thought everything is fine and there’s no problems there.”