Flames' Backlund nears return

SCOTT FISHER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:42 AM ET

CALGARY - Mikael Backlund insists he’s ready to go.

As for his proof? Not exactly rock solid.

The talented Swede practised with the Calgary Flames Monday afternoon for the first time since breaking a finger prior to the season-opener.

The legs were certainly there. But when asked if he could take faceoffs, he said he’s been dominating one of his teammates in the circle lately.

“I was with Brett Carson Saturday and he can barely bend (over),” Backlund said with a chuckle. “He has a sore back, so it wasn’t too hard.”

Backlund will have to prove himself against more than a hobbled defenceman before his return to the lineup.

It won’t be Tuesday night at home against the visiting Minnesota Wild (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet Flames). Answering a fan question on Twitter about whether he would be playing Tuesday, Backlund said simply, “no I’m not.”

After Monday’s practice, he certainly sounded optimistic he’ll be back soon.

“I’m ready to go,” Backlund said. “I feel I can do everything on the ice. I just have to get a few practices in and I’ll be good to go.

“It’s been five weeks, so it’s been a long time. I can’t wait to play again.”

The 6-foot, 198-pounder stayed in shape during his hiatus from the team, working out hard in the gym and skating on his own.

He followed Monday’s on-ice workout with another spirited skate.

“The toughest part was the skate after practice,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of skating the past couple of weeks, so I have pretty good endurance.

“It felt good. It was fun to be back and I was excited to skate with the guys again.”

The 22-year-old was slated to start the season as the club’s No.-1 centre between Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay.

Playing with two proven offensive weapons, Backlund was all but assured to improve on his 25-point rookie campaign.

He may have to suit up for a few tilts before he’s handed first-line duty, but head coach Brent Sutter was just happy to have Backlund back on the ice.

“He’s getting really close,” Sutter said. “We’ll evaluate him on a day-to-day basis over the next few days, but he’s feeling a lot better and he’s been cleared for full practice.

“Now, we just have to get him through a few practices and get him ready for a game.”

Backlund, who missed a two-month stretch after knee surgery during his draft year, said he stayed positive and used his time off to build some muscle.

“When it first happened, it was frustrating,” Backlund said. “But after that first week, I got back to work with (strength and conditioning coach) Rich Hesketh and everything has been positive.

“I just wanted to improve myself. I took the opportunity to get stronger and fitter.”

Forwards David Moss (foot) and Curtis Glencross did not skate Monday.

Sutter said Moss remains day-to-day, while Glencross had the day off with “bumps and bruises.”


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