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Weary Cammalleri glad to be back in Calgary

by Aaron Vickers
CALGARY -- Emotionally and physically drained, the newest Flame flickered to life upon arriving to the Scotiabank Saddledome.

Returning to the rink for the first time as a member of the Flames since 2009, Mike Cammalleri was all smiles as he walked into his new, old dressing room grinning from ear to ear while holding up a Calgary jersey.

He took a moment to acclimatize himself to the familiar surroundings before gleefully discussing his return to the organization.

"It's exciting to be back," Cammalleri said. "It's been a whirlwind, but it's nice to get here, get into the locker room and get ready to play hockey again. (It's been) pretty wild. I haven't had much sleep at all and it's been a lot of travel and phone calls and messages and things of that nature."

Needless to say, the last day or two have been a blur for Cammalleri.


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In the blink of an eye, Cammalleri went from a scrum in the Montreal Canadiens locker room to playing in Boston against the Bruins to a plane bound for Calgary as the latest addition to a Flames roster that has been constantly evolving all season.

He didn't struggle to put into words the chaos that rocked his world, starting with comments made in a media scrum Wednesday.

"I made a couple of comments I thought were pretty generic -- winning-losing mentality kind of comments," Cammalleri said.  "Then we went on the road. I went for dinner with a friend I used to play with back in the day in Boston. Before I knew it, it was this frenzy of calls and this and that and ‘What did you say? What did you do?'"

It didn't stop there.

"The next day it was somewhat of a zoo," Cammalleri continued. "Then the game took place and the trade happened after the second period so that was interesting. The whole trade thing, a lot was made of it how it happened in between periods but I understand why that took place. I understand the business of it. The team acquiring you doesn't want to risk injury so why not pull you out."

Cammalleri concluded with the civil exchange between he and Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier, concluding with a cab ride back to the hotel and pending details on his new home.

"When I found out it was Calgary I was really thrilled," said Cammalleri.

So were his new teammates.

"Obviously we've added a top player in the League," said Flames defenseman Mark Giordano, a teammate of Cammalleri's from his first stint in Calgary. "The last time he was here he scored what, 40 goals? We know what he is. He's a great player and he can put the puck in the net."

Center Olli Jokinen found it hard to disagree with Giordano's assessment.

"When you get a player like that in your lineup, he's going to be an impact player," Jokinen said.

If Cammalleri was concerned his comments about losing would follow him from Montreal to Calgary, defenseman Cory Sarich quickly put those to rest.

"I'd rather have a guy that wants to win and wants to talk about it then someone sitting in the corner watching the days go by," Sarich said. "If that's the excitement he brings to our room, that's great."

Mike Cammalleri
Center - CGY
GOALS: 9 | ASST: 13 | PTS: 22
SOG: 111 | +/-: -6
Tom Kostopoulos, who spent a year in the minors and two seasons alongside Cammalleri with the Los Angeles Kings, knows exactly what to expect.

"He's not afraid to talk," Kostopoulos said. "He's confident in his game. When he's at his best he's very confident, even on the borderline. He's a great player. He'll bring a lot of dimensions to our team."

Being vocal is an aspect of his game that comes naturally to Cammalleri.

"I just try to be myself," he said. "My natural personality, I guess I'm somewhat vocal that way. I've always expressed what I felt that way. As far as the team goes I think it's good people provide leadership in different ways."

So is providing offense, a department in which Calgary sits 23rd in the NHL.

Cammalleri enjoyed a career-best 39 goals and 82 points as a member of the Flames in 2008-09. Though he's managed just nine goals and 22 points through 38 games this season in Montreal, Cammalleri is hoping a change in scenery can generate a change on the scoresheet.

"The hope is that one of the main reasons I was brought here is to produce offensively," Cammalleri said. "That's something I'll look to provide immediately."

He'll have the opportunity to start under some eerie coincidences.

Cammalleri will make his season debut with the Flames against the Los Angeles Kings, the team that drafted him in the second round (No. 49) in the 2001 NHL Draft.

He spent parts of five seasons with the Kings before originally being dealt to the Flames on the day of the 2008 draft. It was then-Calgary general manager Darryl Sutter who traded for him. The same Sutter will be behind the Los Angeles bench Saturday night.

"That's crazy," said Cammalleri, who will wear No. 93. "This game seems like there's lots of side stories to it. Hopefully the game can live up to the expectations. With the return of Darryl and coaching against his brother and coming back as a manager here, what do you even say about that. It sounds like a movie of sorts."

Cammalleri wondered how the script would play out in his first game. He was at least able to identify the first shift.

"I would imagine I will be pretty excited," he said. "It'll be fun for me to get out there. I'll probably go out there and be really anxious and be exhausted after 10 seconds. I'll make it a quick short one."

In other words, no rest for the weary Cammalleri.
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