BACK AND BETTER THAN EVER
The Flames had disappointing end to the their 2009-10 year but one bright spot was the play of
goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff
. He was outstanding over the course of the campaign won his team more a few contests and he'll be counted on once again this year.
He was in excellent shape when he showed at training camp last year and is in similar shape now. Many are wondering if he'll turn in the same kind of performance this season. The Finnish netminder didn't speculate on whether his numbers would remain the same but did say he was looking forward to getting back on the ice.
"I feel pretty good again this year," he said.
"As a team inside that room, we believe we have a pretty strong team here."
Never one to brag about his acheivements, Kiprusoff modestly brushed off any accolades from last season, saying he believes he can be better.
"Some of my numbers have been better than the last few years but I didn't have enough wins to take the team to the playoffs so yeah, I can do better."
Kiprusoff said the team was not dwelling on the end of their last season but embracing it as a motivating factor this year.
"If you don't make the playoffs, nobody should be happy in our room. That's the biggest thing. We saw last season how hard it is when you're not making the playoffs I think we'll be ready."
READY TO MAKE A SPLASH
Despite the fact he's pegged as one of the young defensemen ready push for a job on the Flames blueline, Matt Pelech hasn't changed his attitude coming into this year's camp.
"It's the same as any camp," he said on Friday morning. "You train all summer and you try to be good shape both on and off the ice. You just want to do the best you can and have a good camp."
General Manager Darryl Sutter and members of the coaching staff have singled out Pelech in recent weeks as one of the players they expect to make an impact. Pelech admitted that he was flattered by the compliments but has not let them change the way he has prepared for camp.
"I really don't think it should. Every camp you come to, whether your chances on the team are great or not that great, you want to come in and you want to work hard and want to impress.
"I think if you start changing your mindset and taking things foregranted, that's what is going to hurt you. The big thing is to come in and play well and hopefully play well enough to get a little bit of attention."
Pelech has had his development slowed by injuries including a blood clot in his shoulder that required surgery last season. When asked if he was back to 100 per cent physically, he didn't hesitate with an answer.
"Yes, I am. It was a rough year for me last year with the kind of weird, freaky injuries but I've had great support around me with the doctors and my family and everything. I'm healthy and off the all medication so I'm good to go."
With a plethora of defensemen on one-way contracts, Pelech knows he will have to perform at the highest possible level to make the roster.
"If I have a good camp and I really push some guys ... if you look at the d-corps on this team, there's eight guys on one-ways (contracts) that are really good hockey players. They could all be top four players in the league so it's going to be really tough in this situation especially.
"That's something that is totally out of my control and I just want want to come in and have the best camp and hopefully show them I can play up here."LIGHTER ATMOSPHERE
For the past several years, the Flames have had a lot of expectations placed upon the team. Hockey experts have said they'll be in the top of the Western Conference and the frontrunner to lead the Northwest Conference. This season, it's a totally different ball game.
Outside of Calgary, the expectations for the Flames are low. Some say they'll barely scrap into the playoff picture. Others say they won't make it at all. This dismal attitude has not hampered the team though.
"Maybe on paper no one is saying we're going to do it," Craig Conroy said. "But for us, it's like 'let's just go have fun and play.' There's no pressure. There's no pressure on us to do it. No one is expecting anything except ourselves."
Conroy said that while he liked the changes the team made last year, it took some time for the players to solidify as a group.
"For us, we always talk about having fun, being a team and coming together. Last year, we made a ton of changes. Great guys, we brought in, but it just didn't seem to gel (quickly). It didn't work quite as well as we wanted and we didn't make the playoffs."
Now that they've spent a decent amount of time together and have gotten to know one another, the locker room has a sense of fun within it.
"It seems like everyone gets along and everyone's joking around in there working out and everyone's having a good time. That makes it a different atmosphere," he smiled.
"I think, it's serious when you're doing your tests but we're also having some fun in between and I think that's going to translate over into us coming in and we're going work hard in practice but we're going to have fun also. We're going to believe in ourselves and we're going to do it."