CALGARY – What’s old was new again for the Calgary Flames during their first on-ice training camp session Saturday.
Jarome Iginla skated on a line with Alex Tanguay and Olli Jokinen, reuniting the Flames captain with two familiar faces.
Iginla has played with the pair during their previous stints with the club, but it was the first time the trio has worked together as a unit.
“I’m excited about it,” Iginla said. “Playing with Alex and Olli, I think we can be a really good line.”
Paired with Iginla during the 2006-07 season, Tanguay finished with a career high 81 points, including 59 assists. The 31-year-old left-winger has confidence he can once again find that form.
“When I came here in ’06, the team was going through the same thing,” said Tanguay, who was re-signed by the Flames on July 1 after putting up just 10 goals and 27 assists in 80 games with Tampa Bay last season. “They hadn’t scored many goals the year before. In ’06, if I remember properly, we had lots of firepower, it wasn’t an issue.”
While Tanguay had considerable success playing with Iginla during his time with the Flames, the same can’t be said for Jokinen. The Finn put up 50 points in 75 games in parts of two seasons with Calgary before being traded to the New York Rangers on Feb. 1.
Jokinen, who was Florida’s third overall pick in 1997, also re-signed with the Flames in the off-season.
“It was good step—a step in the right direction,” said Jokinen after Saturday’s session. “We obviously started building chemistry. It was a good day overall as a team. We had a really good practice and everybody is so positive and upbeat over here.”
Brent Sutter has no immediate plans to break up the line. The second-year Calgary bench boss said he wants to see the trio develop some chemistry together throughout camp and into the pre-season.
“I think we need to just leave things alone here right now,” Sutter said. “Let’s just see what happens with it. Nothing’s written in stone obviously, but I think any time you think and put some things together, you have to give it some time to see if it works.”
Although he suspected he’d eventually play on a line with Tanguay and Jokinen, Iginla had no idea that they would be put together so early.
“It was nice to come and see that we were starting together,” said Iginla, who scored 32 goals and added 37 assists in 82 games last year after averaging more than 93 points a season in each of the three previous campaigns.
“It was still nice to skate alongside both of them. They’re both very good players, very skilled. We’re all going to be very driven. We can’t wait.”
For Calgary’s top line to have success, Tanguay said all three players will have to use their speed to create scoring opportunities.
“I think the key to our game is going to be skating,” he said. “If you guys watched practice, things were moving out there and we’re trying to use a little more speed then perhaps the team did last year.”
After disappointing seasons with Montreal in 2008-09 and the Lightning last year, Tanguay said he’s happy to be back with the Flames playing alongside Iginla.
“Obviously Iggy’s an outstanding player and it’s a lot of fun to play with him,” Tanguay said. “He’s such a gifted goalscorer and we all know about his physical abilities and his skating. When you give him the puck in the slot, he always finds a way to put it in so it’s fun to be out there with him, but I’m just looking to do my thing.”
Forward Niklas Hagman missed the first on-ice session with the flu, while centre Mikael Backlund left late in the practice after taking a stick to the face.
“We’ll know tomorrow but it looks like it’s not that serious so that’s good,” said Sutter.
Calgary’s training camp will continue on Sunday and Monday before the Flames start their exhibition schedule Tuesday with a pair of split-squad games against the Vancouver Canucks, one in Calgary and the other in Vancouver.
The Flames will then likely reduce their roster from 54 players prior to hosting pre-season games against the Lighting on Sept. 25 and the Phoenix Coyotes on Sept. 28.