CALGARY – In his first training camp with the Calgary Flames, Nigel Dawes has made an immediate impression with his play so far.
While admitting to having a “sluggish” start during last Tuesday’s 4-1 pre-season loss at home against the Edmonton Oilers, Dawes rebounded with a much better effort on Thursday night as the Flames edged the New York Islanders 5-4 in a shootout at the Pengrowth Saddledome.
“I definitely felt better and I’ve just got to keep improving on that,” said Dawes, who played on a line with Daymond Langkow and Theoron Fleury against the Islanders.
While Dawes earned accolades as second star after notching a goal and two assists in the contest, Fleury stole the show by counting the game-winning goal during the shootout.
“It was just awesome to be a part of his first game back and playing with him,” said Dawes, who was claimed off of waivers from the Phoenix Coyotes by the Flames on July 16. “With his credentials over his career and the work he’s put into it to get back, you know he’s going to be out there battling every night.”
In some ways, both Dawes and Fleury find themselves in similar positions trying to make enough of an impression during training camp to earn roster spots with the Flames in the regular season.
“It was fun to play with him last night,” said Fleury, who recruited Dawes to work as an instructor at his hockey school in Russell, Man., several years ago. “I thought he was excellent. I was really happy for him.”
The five-foot-eight, 190-pound left winger also received high praise from Langkow.
“We seem to have some chemistry there,” said Langkow, who set up his new linemate for the first goal of the game in the first period. “He moves the puck well and he skates well obviously. I think this will be a good opportunity for him. So far he seems to be making the best of it.”
Dawes later assisted on a pair of power-play goals by Olli Jokinen in the second period to cap off a three-point performance.
“He’s a skilled guy who’s good around the net, good hands,” said Jokinen, who’s impressed with the attitude Dawes has brought with him to Calgary. “He wants to take that step to be a top six forward in this league.”
Dawes will be looking to improve upon a trying season last year during which he scored 10 goals and added nine assists in 52 games for the New York Rangers before being traded to Phoenix, where he added two more helpers in 12 contests.
With 133 NHL games under his belt over four seasons, the Winnipeg native was pleased that Calgary general manager Darryl Sutter took a chance on him by claiming him off of waivers from Phoenix and then signing him to a contract just days later.
“I really like the opportunity that I have here and the group of guys and the team that we have this year,” said Dawes, who was drafted by the Rangers in the fifth round (149th) overall of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. “I’m just trying to keep playing hard and show what I can do and hopefully make a push for one of the spots in the top six. It’s a lot of hard work, but I’m really determined to do it.”
After seeing Dawes in action during the pre-season, Jokinen said he likes his new teammate’s chances to stick around and make an impact.
“He’s got all the tools to do that,” Jokinen said. “He’s been very impressive so far in the camp.”