Two groups. Veterans slated for National Hockey League duty in one group. Rookies and prospects hoping to gain a shot at one of the few spots on the Calgary Flames in the other group. That's how things played out during the first day of on-ice sessions at the Flames 2007 training camp.
For both groups the message was clear -- tempo is key.
| HOW THEY LINED UP |
|The veteran group of players sported 19 skaters on the first day of training camp. Below are the line combinations. |
|Forward Lines |
|Defence Pairings |
Eriksson (rotated with Sarich and Phaneuf)
|Kiprusoff and McElhinney |
Head coach Mike Keenan, directing his first official practice as the head coach of the Flames after being named to the position in June, wore a stopwatch around his neck and constantly reminded the players to "move."
"I was pleased with the effort," said Keenan. "Both groups were diligent and working. That was the impression we wanted to make on the first day."
Asked what else he wanted to achieve on Day 1, Keenan didn't hesitate.
"It was cadence, tempo, speed, quick decisions, quick thinking and responding to the demands on the ice. Part of it is muscle memory, some is instincts," he said. "It comes with perfect practice, not just practising."
Of interest to many were the line combinations (see the table at left). However, Keenan hinted that different combinations will be put together throughout training camp which moves quickly -- the Flames host Florida Sunday at the Pengrowth Saddledome (6 p.m. MT, The Fan 960).
"We have to look at some youngsters but we also want to build chemistry on the defence and with lines and with special teams. There is a lot to get done in a short period of time," said Keenan.
On Friday the top line featured Daymond Langkow at centre with Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay on the wings. The second line featured speedy Matthew Lombardi at centre flanked by veteran necomer Owen Nolan and Kristian Huselius.
|Flames coach Mike Keenan conducts practice |
When Keenan speaks of chemistry on the blueline, there are a number of pairing questions. The biggest is who will Dion Phaneuf be beside? For the past two seasons he had played with the now-departed Roman Hamrlik (Montreal). He briefly played with vet Robyn Regehr last season. On Thursday he played with both Cory Sarich and Anders Ericksson, two off-season additions to the blueline.
"If he is a really good young player, and we assume that he is, he should be able to play with anyone," said Keenan of Phaneuf.
Keenan, who started last season as the general manager in Florida, said getting back into the coaching role was fun.
"I felt good. I might have looked bad," he joked. "It was the first day back in the teaching mode. It felt good to be out there with the players.It's nice to have a chance to help these people and hopefully get something accomplished. You hope you can inspire them with something that you teach them."
The first group on the ice was comprised of the younger players and mix from the Flames American Hockey League team last season. It included big club hopefuls such as Eric Nystrom, Dustin Boyd, Cam Cunning and Grant Stevenson. The goalies in the group were Leland Irving, Matt Keetley, Kevin Lalande and Brent Krahn, although Krahn did not dress because of a knee injury.
You can expect a number of prospects to be sprinkled into the line-up for Sunday's game against Florida.
"It's evaluation time for both teams," said Keenan. "That's what training camp is -- a time to evaluate and build your team."
If Day 1 on the ice is any indication, Keenan plans on having one very up-tempo team by the time the season opens in October.