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After one practice with his new team, the Kelowna product is already settling in with his new club

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GeorgejohnsonCH /

If acceptance can be equated to amiable potshots, Curtis Lazar has won the boys over in no time flat.

"Stand aside! Stand aside!'' admonished Kris Versteeg to a semi-circle gaggle of media awaiting No. 20's arrival from the ice. "Curtis Lazar on the way! Curtis Lazar on the way!"

Then, with a reproachful tut-tut of warning. "And remember, no hard questions."

Over a departing shoulder as he clomped off down the hallway into the Markin McPhail/Hockey Canada dressing room, Matthew Tkachuk couldn't resist a little dig of his own.

"Wh-hooooooooo!'' the freshman winger yelped. "New big man on campus."

With the Harlem Globetrotters lighting up the temporary hardwood and the strains of Sweet Georgia Brown wafting thorough the Scotiabank Saddledome for a second straight evening, the Calgary Flames welcomed their newest addition at a WinSport practice on Thursday.

"Good to get here. It's been a pretty hectic 24 hours,'' acknowledged Lazar, acquired 30 minutes from Wednesday's trade deadline from the Ottawa Senators. "I couldn't be more excited.

"I'm very motivated, let's put it that way. And there's no doubt I'm going to do it. I think the key word for myself is just the confidence.

"That's kind of the area I've lost a little bit. That swagger I need to be successful on the ice. I figure I can make an impact on the game in a lot of ways other than points.

"I think you guys are going to see my game's pretty simple. I'm not going to be the one out there out-dragging, putting the puck between my legs or anything like that. I'm going go to through guys, get that puck to the net.

"Most of all, it's getting energy for the team. I call it youthful enthusiasm. Even though I'm not the youngest guy anymore and that's nice.

"This is a fresh start for myself. The guys have been awesome so far. I'm getting to know them all. I can't wait to take my game to the next level as a member of the Calgary Flames."

For the 22-year-old Lazar, the change in environment, a fresh beginning, can be nothing but a good thing. This is a player thought highly enough of, after all, to be selected 17th overall, remember.

The captain of a Memorial Cup champion and a World Junior gold medal-winning team.

"This morning,' Lazar said, "was a whirlwind. Sitting in a brief video session with the team, picking up how the system works, even the practice - I did a lot of watching today, getting the structure down.

"In Ottawa, we do play a pretty unique style. I'm looking forward to playing a more traditional style again. 

"I'm a pretty hard-nosed guy. I like being all over the puck. There were times in Ottawa where you kind of had to step back and be a little more defensive. I really wanted to go and that hesitation didn't get me anywhere."

Video: Lazar feeling confident heading into new chapter

Any off-ice acclimatization period he reckons will be brief.

"I don't have a wife or kid or anything. I just have a dog and he's being taken care of back in Ottawa. He'll make his way out her at some point but I'm just focused on hockey.

"The rest will take care of itself.

"It was a pretty cool feeling when I landed last night. I texted my parents 'I'm home.' I'm a western boy from B.C., and I'm very familiar with Alberta from my time in Edmonton" - as a junior star - "and I can't wait to start living here in Calgary.

"I'm from Kelowna, eight hours from home. It's good to be out here. I feel like I belong out here."

The message to Lazar from the Flames' organization is one any player wants to hear when entering new territory.

"To be here, with no weight on my shoulders, I can just go out and play," Lazar reasoned.

"That's a big thing Mr. Treliving said to me on the phone. He said: 'Curtis, I just want you to go out and be you.'

"And that was music to my ears."

Initial impressions from his new boss are favourable (even though Lazar isn't expected to make his Flames' debut Friday night when the Detroit Red Wings are in town).

"Met him this morning, he seems like a real good young guy, had a good skate, didn't look out of place at all,'' said Glen Gulutzan. "Obviously excited.

"I'm told he's a real positive kid. We've talked about this all year, we want to get the right people. And he certainly fits that bill." 

One of those more familiar with Lazar from their time together in the Senators' organization, winger Alex Chiasson, praised the pick-up.

"Curtis,'' he said, " is a really good kid. A kid that works really hard, plays the game the right way. Energetic. He gets on the forecheck.

"He's going to be a great addition to this team.

"He's always smiling, whether he gets rocked on the ice or scores a goal. Doesn't matter. He's always smiling. He's got a real good attitude. He's a kid that's nice to be around.

"I know a lot of talk has been around his character, the type of kid he is, and I'll fully (endorse) that.

"It's been a frustrating season for him. All players have been through that, myself included."

Familiar with the notoriety inherent in performing in a Canadian, hockey-mad market, Lazar drew his share of attention on the way west Wednesday night at Calgary International Airport upon arrival.

"I think that was mostly some people on my flight stuck watching all the Trade Centre stuff on TV and they saw my ugly mug,'' he joked. "They kind of see you on the plane and put two-and-two together.

"But the reception here in Calgary has been awesome. The fans are great. I think they're very excited and I think that helps things, too.

"I'm looking forward to building a relationship with the fan base.

"I've got to find that smile again. I'm all about the smile. If I do that, I'll be a good player."

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