Flames foursome burning up

Flames well-represented at orientation camp

By STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA



Jarome Iginla once stood alone at Team Canada's olympic orientation camp.

Now he's outnumbered.

With three Calgary Flames defencemen heading to the Saddledome for four days starting Monday, Iginla's got plenty of company.

Only the Philadelphia Flyers also boast a quartet -- forwards Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and Simon Gagne and defenceman Chris Pronger -- at the camp.

Finnish Flames Olli Jokinen and Miikka Kiprusoff were also invited to their country's camp earlier this month, which says a lot about the expectations their NHL team has for this season.

"We have a really deep team, and one that has some international flavour to it -- some pretty solid players," said Flames defenceman Robyn Regehr, who will join Iginla, Dion Phaneuf and Jay Bouwmeester next week for the Canadian camp.

"When you have that many recognized from one team, there's gonna be some high expectations for us as a team.

"We really need to come out and have a really good start to the year. Everyone has to have solid years individually, but I think the most important is to have a really good first half of the year as a team."

Kiprusoff and Jokinen are locks for Team Finland.

Iginla will be considered for the Canadian captaincy, and cases can be made to include the entire defensive trio, too.

"Who knows how many guys (will be selected for the 2010 Vancouver Games)?" said Regehr.

"I hope all of them."

Regardless of what happens in February, Bouwmeester is impressed by next week's Flames camp contingent.

"There's a lot of good players in the league. You can only invite 46. When you have four guys from one team, that's pretty good," said the Edmontonian who signed a five-year, $33.4-million deal with the Flames after the team traded for his rights days before he was set to become an unrestricted free agent.

"For me, I've never really been in that situation before. It's exciting. This camp's one thing, but I've been really excited for the year -- the prospects of having a real solid team.

"I'm looking forward to it."

Steve Yzerman and the rest of the Team Canada brass are looking forward to seeing what the Flames' top trio do in the first half of the NHL season, as well. It's that last evaluation period that can separate them from some talented competitors vying for precious few spots on what will be a team loaded with talent.

Although it might seem a stretch, all three Calgary blueliners have a legitimate shot at being chosen.

"If you look at the three of us, our games are all a little bit different," said Regehr.

Regehr is the prototypical shut-down guy. He was paired with Rob Blake at the 2006 Turin Games, but had more success winning gold alongside Scott Niedermayer at the 2004 World Cup.

That was a good match. Regehr complemented the puck-mover perfectly.

"He's not going to score a whole bunch of points or anything, but he's a real good competitive guy, a hard guy to play against," Bouwmeester said of Regehr. "As a defenceman, that's pretty much your No. 1 priority is to be good defensively, and I think he's the guy that epitomizes that."

Phaneuf's strength comes in enemy territory.

"I'm well aware of what Dion can do," Bouwmeester said. "He's a guy who can make things happen. Dion's obviously a real good offensive guy. He can play those big minutes. Robyn's a real shut-down, stay-at-home sorta guy.

"For myself, first I want to be a defensive guy. I know I have the ability to provide some offence, so I know that will be expected as well."

From Team Canada's orientation to the Flames' training camp, Regehr sees the trio's varied strengths as something that can offer both squads the best of every aspect of the game from the back end.

"I hope it's a really good mix for our team, because we have the opportunity to learn from one another, try to help one another out," Regehr said.

"If I'm struggling with a part of my game that maybe Jay is doing really well with, maybe I can look at what he's doing on tape or we can talk about it during the game or whenever.

"It's a really healthy thing to do."

STEVE.MACFARLANE@SUNMEDIA.CA

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