SUN Hockey Pool

Tanguay lends advice to rookies

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:29 AM ET

CALGARY - A few young Flames hopefuls will get their first taste of NHL pre-season action Tuesday when the teams play a pair of split-squad games against the Canucks in Calgary and Vancouver.

Veteran Alex Tanguay has advice for them.

“Have fun, work hard, and don’t be intimidated by the situation,” said the 31-year-old winger. “Those guys are players just like you. They went through the same process.

“Try to learn.”

Tanguay learned plenty as a teenager in his first camp by watching the veteran Colorado Avalanche teammates such as Joe Sakic.

Making the jump straight to the NHL as a 19-year-old after finishing his junior career with the QMJHL Halifax Mooseheads, Tanguay still remembers his first camp, which started rough.

“My first week, I was terrible. I felt intimidated,” Tanguay said. “At the time, we didn’t have rookie camp, so we just went straight to main camp, and we were playing intra-squads, and I wasn’t doing so well.

“The first pre-season game, (Avs head coach) Bob Hartley met me before the game. He goes, ‘You haven’t been so good, but we’ll give you a little longer.’”

Apparently that helped. Tanguay scored two goals and had an assist in his first sampling of NHL action.

“The first game and the first week, it’s hard to get yourself (settled down). I was playing with Joe Sakic some of the shifts. Every time I touched the puck, I was so anxious to get it to him — you don’t play your game,” Tanguay said. “But I ended up having a great training camp. It was fun.”

GYM-DANDY BUSINESS

Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond’s path to the NHL has been as difficult as trying to say his name in a single breath.

That makes his off-season hobby back home in Quebec City as much a passion as playing the game he loves.

“I own a gym back home, so it’s really spending a lot of time there and making things work. There’s a lot of guys in junior that work out with us. I try to help them out,” Leblond said of his Hard Gym Performance. “I don’t deal with the business part yet. My trainer does that for me. I just enjoy having my own gym, my own place. I always wanted to own a gym.

“I always had to be in top shape when I showed up (to training camps). My trainer back home came up with the idea, and I was really into it. We decided to start something — it’s really for athletes more than anyone else.”

Leblond started his pro career with the UHL’s Adirondack Frostbite in 2005-06 after two seasons in major junior with the QMJHL’s Bai-Comeau Drakkar. He bounced to the AHL’s Albany River Rats, the ECHL’s Trenton Titans and again back and forth between the New Jersey Devils farm clubs for another full season before getting his first crack in the NHL with the big club under then-head coach Brent Sutter. Leblond had to prove himself every year all over again to stick around.

“It’s a tough road. I never had it easy. If I can help a couple of guys make it to the NHL, I’d be more than happy.”

ICE CHIPS

The Flames scrimmaged Monday to get ready for Tuesday’s jump into game action, and Mikael Backlund led Team White to a 3-2 victory over Team Black with a pair of goals. “It’s fun to get out and play a little bit. It’s kind of hard sometimes playing against your own teammates, but guys were running around pretty good,” said the 22-year-old expected to start the season on the top line. “It was intense, I thought.” Backlund had help from 18-year-old linemate Sven Baertschi, who set him up for a one-timer for the first goal. The two will join veteran Niklas Hagman for the split-squad game Tuesday night in Vancouver ... Other goal-scorers were Jay Bouwmeester for Team White and T.J. Brodie and Rene Bourque for Team Black ... Flames G Miikka Kiprusoff and G Henrik Karlsson will split the game in Calgary, with G Leland Irving slated to play the full 60 minutes in Vancouver.

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNMacfarlane


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