SUN Hockey Pool

No picnic playing in Calgary

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:42 AM ET

Having captained a Darryl Sutter-led team before, Owen Nolan knows what to expect.

With Iron Mike Keenan behind the Calgary Flames bench, the team's newest winger doesn't expect it to be any different.

"It's gonna be intense," Nolan said yesterday on a conference call with the local media to finally confirm what everyone's known since Monday night. "They always expect that effort. Whether you win or lose, the effort's got to be there every night and I don't expect that to change this season.

"With Mike being there, I don't think it's going to be any different. He's going to command respect from his players and he's going to want them to work hard. I'm ready to do it."

Whether or not Keenan tosses out the same sort of quips at ice level remains to be seen.

"When Darryl's behind the bench, he's definitely got some of the best one-liners I've heard," Nolan said with a laugh after he was asked for his best Sutter story fit to appear in print.

"I don't know if I can tell them without swearing, so I don't know if I can add those in."

The Flames GM is expected to officially announce extensions for Jarome Iginla and Robyn Regehr as early as today.

Nolan comes to Calgary amid a swarm of expectations -- his own and those of the local fans already debating his value.

After a respectable 16 goals and 40 points during his comeback season with the Phoenix Coyotes, Nolan's hopes for himself likely outweigh those the fans have for him.

The Quebec Nordiques' first-overall selection in 1990 said he expects to be even better with a return to the aggressive style that led him to a handful of all-star game appearances and gold medals in the world championships and Olympics.

The 6-ft. 1-in., 215-lb. power forward should strengthen the right side of the Flames' forward corps with the gritty game he displayed for many of his 15 NHL seasons.

The knee injury that kept him out of the league for a full year following the lockout gave him no trouble with the Coyotes, although his absence affected his output initially.

His sense of timing -- where to position himself to make an impact during play -- was way off.

"More than I expected," Nolan said. "For a goal-scorer, that's what you need is timing -- being in the right place at the right time. It seemed like I was either ahead of the play or behind the play by a step.

"Once I got that under control, I felt more free in the game. I don't think that's going to be an issue whatsoever this year.

"I just expect to have a good year."

The Irish-Canadian nearly came back from the knee injury early for a playoff push late in 2005-06 season -- rumour had it the Flames were among the few interested in his services -- but he said the time away paid off.

"I think everyone was really gun-shy about taking a chance on me. I was close to coming back but I felt that my knee wasn't at 100 percent," Nolan said. "I felt if a team was going to take a chance on me, I want to make sure I'm 100 percent, make sure if they're investing in me then I can invest back in them."

Like Teemu Selanne, who used the lockout year to rehab a surgically repaired knee before returning rejuvenated, Nolan made the right move.

"I talked to some friends throughout the league. You don't always make the right decisions," Nolan said. "For once in my career I think I made the right decision.


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