Bo low-key on Florida return

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:08 AM ET

You can understand Jay Bouwmeester not getting too excited about his first return trip to Florida to face his old team. With his low-key, laid-back demeanour, Bouwmeester doesn't seem like the type to wind himself up over that kind of thing.

"I haven't thought about it much. We've had enough going on here," he said with a chuckle.

With the Calgary Flames struggles and sweeping roster changes earlier this week, there have been plenty of other things to keep the mind occupied lately.

Still, Friday's clash against the Panthers will mark Bouwmeester's return to South Florida. The Panthers' website is promoting the game as "Bouwmeester vs. Panthers Trio; Booth, Frolik, Weiss."

"It's going to be a little strange more than anything, after all that time there being on the other end of things," admitted Bouwmeester. "But it happens. Guys get traded or move around."

Bouwmeester spent six seasons with the Panthers after being drafted third overall in 2002. When it became obvious he wouldn't re-sign with the seemingly always struggling club, the defenceman's rights were traded to Calgary for defenceman Jordan Leopold and a third-round draft choice.

Instead of hitting the free-agent market, Bouwmeester signed a five-year, US$33-million contract with Calgary.

He doesn't expect to go to the wrong dressing room or wrong bench out of habit, but Bouwmeester is unsure what the return will be like.

"There are only a few guys I played with more than a couple of years," he said. "The whole time I was there, there was a lot of turnover every year."

Just like he's experienced this week in Calgary.

The Flames start their three-game road trip with six newcomers, as well as rookie Mikael Backlund in the mix.

So much for him leaving Florida for one of the NHL's most stable organizations.

"Everyone is surprised with the way things have happened," he said. "Having a lot of new faces, it's almost a new team. It's almost like a fresh start. I think everyone in here realizes what we need to do to get out of this, and now it's up to us to go out and do it."

To help, Bouwmeester has started to lead and join more rushes of late.

He's compiled surprisingly low offensive numbers -- two goals and 21 points in 57 games -- but has shown lately more willingness to join the attack.

Of course, you can't help but wonder whether the defencemen have often enough looked to join the attack. Head coach Brent Sutter insists the blueliners, especially Bouwmeester, Mark Giordano and newcomer Ian White, have the green light.

"If they recognize the opportunities, by all means. You have to do it with intelligence, but with the speed those guys have, they can attack with their skating capabilities," Sutter said.

"It's nice to have defencemen to join rushes. You've seen Bo do it at times, but we haven't read the situation, as far as the forwards knowing he's up in the rush, so he probably hasn't got the puck as often as he should."


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