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Baertschi hoping to find stride at Flames camp

by Aaron Vickers /

CALGARY -- Sven Baertschi knows what's at stake. He knows there are no guarantees.

The 20-year-old rookie is aware that despite closing last season as the team's hottest forward with points in seven straight games to close the season, he's no lock to start the season with the Calgary Flames.

"That's what's really exciting about this camp this year," Baertschi said. "There's not much guaranteed here and everyone has to earn a spot. It should be really intense out there and that's the fun part about hockey. If it wasn't intense, it wouldn't be much fun."

Taken by the Flames with the 13th pick of the 2011 NHL Draft, Baertschi had set the bar to almost unattainable expectations when he scored three goals in five games during an emergency call-up from the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League in 2011-12.

He was expected to explode onto the scene for the Flames in 2012-13, but instead he stumbled, going pointless in his first four games before injuring his hip flexor. Baertschi missed 11 games, and upon his return had one assist in the six games that followed. He then was sent to the club's American Hockey League club, the Abbotsford Heat, for a month-long stint to boost his confidence.

It worked.

Upon his recall, the Bern, Switzerland product caught fire, scoring three goals and adding six assists in the final seven games of the season.

But that doesn't bring him security, either.

"For me, I wasn't up the whole last year," said Baertschi, who finished the season with 10 points in 20 NHL games. "There's nothing guaranteed for anyone here. It's all about the training camp. You want to make sure you put everything out there you've got and you work hard and you show what you can do out there. For no one there's no guaranteed spots or a guaranteed lineup. I think that's the exciting part for us young guys."

Even with the late-season momentum, Baertschi said he hasn't been able to carry the same performance into camp despite a tune-up at the Flames' development camp in July and another last week with the Flames' team at the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, British Columbia.

"Going into rookie camp I wasn't as comfortable," he said. "I didn't bring it there. I felt I missed certain parts of my game."

Calgary coach Bob Hartley said he isn't too worried about the rookie. He said the small sample size isn't something he's going to lose sleep over as he keeps a watchful eye on the team's emerging young players in training camp.

"The race, the marathon, it's still a short marathon, a few weeks, but the marathon is just starting," Hartley said. "I'm too old to get excited after one day or getting disappointed after one day. It's every day I'm rating the players. I'm looking for consistency, I'm looking for courage, I'm looking for toughness, I'm looking for speed. I'm looking for guys who will compete, and that's basically my message."

Those are the areas of Baertschi's game that he feels he's quickly finding.

On the ice for the first time in camp Thursday, the veteran of 25 NHL games said he already can feel his game rounding into form.

"Coming in [Thursday], I felt like I had a really good practice," Baertschi said. "I feel like I'm in really good shape. I think for me personally, I'm in much better shape than last year. It also helps and gives you extra confidence, it gives you more speed to your game, more intensity to your game, and that's the important part for me and the next step."

Baertschi's next step is as important for him as it is for the rebuilding Flames.

And while there's no certainty he'll take it in camp, his chances to remain in Calgary improve greatly if he can.

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