CALGARY, AB -- Dennis Wideman has a bit more jump in his step at practice this week.
He has waited over six months to make his debut with the Calgary Flames and with the 2013 season in sight, he's very eager to hit the ice with his new team.
"It seems like so long ago (I signed my contract)," Wideman said. "I was really excited and I couldn't wait to get things going. Now with how long this has dragged on for, it's definitely taken away from that a little bit. But now that we're starting, I'm really excited to get going."
Wideman has been practicing in Calgary for a month, skating regularly with his teammates, but he has noticed a definite change in pace over the last few days. The intensity level has picked up and players are much more engaged when it comes to physical play.
"It's a bit different now that we know camp is starting. The pace has picked up quite a bit, starting to get some bumps out there. It's been quite a bit better and it's great that we're getting things going."
The defenceman believes adding a physical element to practices is crucial, especially for individuals who haven't played during the work stoppage.
"When they say game shape, a lot of that has to do with battling in the corner, getting hit and giving hits, pushing and shoving.
"Just playing around in the summer, you're not really hitting. You're just kind of stick-checking. It's getting back into that - getting back into the pushing and the grinding and actually battling in the corners."
The Flames will be using training camp to get up to speed on new head coach Bob Hartley's systems but Wideman will also be trying to get acclimatized to his teammates tendencies and styles of play. Given training camp will be short, that may seem like a daunting task but Wideman isn't worried.
"I've been traded twice at the deadline so I approach it just like that; where you're coming in and jumping into a new system and a new team real quick. But I've been here for a month and I've played against these guys enough that I've got a pretty good idea of what a lot of them are trying to do out there.
"Getting reads down low, neutral zone regroups and all those kinds of things, we haven't got to that yet (here at WinSport) so it will be good to get out get a bunch of practices in with whoever I end up playing with."
Communication between the coaching staff and the players will be key throughout training camp and Wideman is confident Hartley, Jacques Cloutier, Martin Gelinas and Clint Malarchuk will be able to get everyone on the same page by the time the season starts.
"I think coaches do a really good job of explaining their system and what they would like you to do pretty quick. Then it's just up to me to get in and listen to what they're saying ... there is usually a feeling-out process but we've got hopefully seven days of camp where we'll either get some intra-squad games or in game-like situations where we'll get a feel for what he's looking for."
The Flames acquired Wideman - who was set to become a UFA last summer - in a trade with the Washington Capitals on June 27, 2012, sending Jordan Henry and a 5th round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft to the Caps in exchange for the Kitchener, ON product. They had permission from Washington to negotiate with him prior to the trade and the two sides agreed upon a five-year contract.
Flames general manager Jay Feaster feels Wideman brings a lot to the table and is anticipating him to be a big factor when it comes to offensive production from the blueline.
"He's a right-hand shot. He's a guy who can play the point on the power play. He's a guy who is not afraid to shot the puck, get the puck through and on the net - we think that's going to help. He makes a good first pass.
"With the up-tempo style Bob (Hartley) wants to play, he can be up the ice, he can involved in the offence and also do a good job in the neutral zone."
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