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Iginla ready to go for opener

Captain Jarome Iginla skates during a Calgary Flames hockey practice at the Scotiabank Saddledome...

Captain Jarome Iginla skates during a Calgary Flames hockey practice at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Thursday, October 6, 2011. (LYLE ASPINALL/QMI Agency)

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:27 PM ET

Sidelined the entire exhibition season, Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla knows he won’t have the luxury of any sort of adjustment period.

When the puck drops Saturday night at the Saddledome, Iginla will have his first taste of game action since last season thanks to the back problem that plagued him in his first on-ice session of training camp.

Although he’s had plenty of practice over the last week, and is as physically fit as anyone in the league, the 34-year-old captain will be conscious of the fact he could be a little rusty.

“I think I’ll probably try to focus on getting my feet moving,” Iginla said of the season opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins (8 p.m., CBC). “I know it’s going to be a high tempo.”

High tempo wasn’t a problem for Iginla last season.

He was easily the Flames MVP as he and his teammates tried desperately to turn their season around and qualify for the playoffs after a rough first half. Iginla didn’t go without a point in more than two consecutive games after the first week of January, and that only happened on three occasions.

And when games mattered most down the stretch, he scored 13 of his 43 goals over the final 10 contests.

Every season, however, there’s talk of his age eventually getting the best of him.

And with his back spasms getting the best of him in camp, some fear he may struggle with similar issues all season long.

Iginla isn’t one of them.

Neither, apparently, are the doctors, chiropractors and physiotherapists who helped him get back to 100% before rejoining the team in Banff this week.

“No, it’s not something that should be re-occurring,” Iginla said. “Could be a one-off. They say just because you do it once, doesn’t mean you’ll do it again if you take care of yourself. It can be a freak thing.

“Hopefully that’s the case.”

If it still sounds like there’s still a hint of doubt, it definitely doesn’t compare to the early stages of camp. He really believed it would be a few days at most before he was able to get back on the ice.

“I thought it would be great Day 2 or 3 (of camp). It just took a little bit longer than I thought it would,” he said. “Then you start worrying. People talk about back things. Thankfully I feel great.

“I’m looking forward to getting in a game. I’m very happy that I do feel healthy, and the way it’s gone. An injury, it makes you appreciate more being healthy and playing.

“It’s hard being out and watching the guys go and not being able to be part of it. I’m looking forward to get going.”

He’s been progressively increasing his efforts so that he hits the ice in stride Saturday against an aggressive and up-tempo Penguins squad led by Evgeni Malkin in Sidney Crosby’s absence.

“I’ve been pushing it the last few days at practice, doing everything,” Iginla said. “Each day, got more confident with it.

“First day back, you just want to make it through practice. Every day it’s felt better and better. Today, I didn’t even think about it on the ice.

“I don’t think I’ll think about it during the game.”

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNMacfarlane


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