New coach expects vets to be hungry

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:03 AM ET

Calgary Flames head coach Mike Keenan said a week ago he was pumped up and ready to get the latest chapter of his career behind the bench started.

That was when the prospects arrived for camp. Now, he expects his veterans to come in just as eager for the 2007-08 NHL campaign to kick off.

"I'm anticipating having a hungry group, and that means getting better every day, to challenge yourself as a professional every day," Keenan replied when asked what kind of atmosphere he likes to create during training camp.

"Part of the mix is the distribution of ice time -- who wants the ice time and who's earning it. And who's going to go after it game-in and game-out and prepare themselves to play a real intense level and continue to play that way the entire season while getting better as a group, as a team and as individuals?"

Veterans report for fitness testing today, starting at 9 a.m. with the most experienced NHLer on the team, Owen Nolan, kicking things off.

He's one of four new additions to the Flames lineup -- all big-bodied men who have the added bonus of backing their size with strong skating.

That combination is what Keenan has historically favoured, and he got a chuckle yesterday when asked whether he had to choose between big and fast players, or if big, fast guys was the preference.

"That'd be great. That's a good solution," Keenan cracked with a grin. "You need the speed in the game today, for sure. If you're going to withstand the wear and tear of 82 games, plus the pre-season, plus playoffs -- it's a long, hard season, and bigger men seem to hold up on an average a little bit better.

"But quickness is a big part of the game today, and we'll be emphasizing it for sure."

The defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks boast a strong combination of both, and Keenan said he and general manager Darryl Sutter are on the same page when it comes to preferences.

"I think that Darryl and I have both favoured the composition of teams that can sustain a physical presence and have the skill-set and speed at the same time," said Keenan when the Ducks, including former Calgary Hitmen star Ryan Getzlaf, were mentioned.

With Calgary's prospect portion of camp over, Keenan said he'd love for a few of the youngsters to challenge a fairly established lineup.

"It's always encouraging if someone can surprise you and develop your depth," he said. "If someone is ready to play and can make the team better, then we'll look at it."

JUNIOR CUTS

The Flames re-assigned 13 players to their junior clubs. They were defenceman Keith Aulie and forwards John Armstrong, Hugo Carpentier, Devin Didiomete, Juuso Puustinen and Mickey Renaud. Assigned to AHL Quad Cities were forwards Adam Cracknell, Derek Couture, Justin Donati and Curtis Fraser, along with d-men Tim Hambly and Mike Madill. C Mikael Backlund, the team's top pick in this year's draft, was also expected to return to Sweden to join Vasteras.


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