BACKLUND FEELING FRESH
There is no denying Mikael Backlund had a rough 2011-12 season but the 23 year-old pivot has regained the confidence he lost last year.
"So far, I feel good about myself," Backlund said after practice on Monday. "It's been great at practice.
"After the season (last year), I took a lot of time off from hockey. I just forgot about it. I enjoyed myself, hanging out with friends and family. I just got away from it because I was mentally drained. So after that, I came back, felt fresh and wanted to get back at it; I worked hard this summer and I worked hard in Sweden too."
One aspect that he felt was missing in the 2011-12 campaign was a sense of swagger out on the ice. Losing confidence in himself tempered any bravado he had but it appears he's found it.
"(I need) a little more cockiness in my game," he grinned. "I'm not going to be the nice guy anymore, let other players think other guys are better than me ... more cockiness, believe in myself and feel that I'm good enough."
His stint with VIK Västerås HK this year helped bring back some of that swagger to his game.
"Playing against Bobby Ryan, (Anze) Kopitar, guys like that ... I felt I was better than them because I produced more than them. I need to bring that over here, feel like I'm a better player than other guys when I go on the ice."
For the past two days, Backlund has centered Sven Baertschi and Mike Cammalleri in both practices and in a scrimmage. He's been happy with the way the way the three of them have played together and is looking forward to the rest of camp.
"It's been good so far. I like the things that Bob (Hartley) has been bringing so far ... I'm really excited to get this going. I'm going to work hard every day - that is my mindset."
COMEAU LIKES WHAT HE SEES AT CENTER ICE
With captain Jarome Iginla absent from practice the past two days, Blake Comeau has had the opportunity to skate on the top line with Curtis Glencross and Alex Tanguay. The latter will be making the move to center ice to start the season and Comeau has been impressed with Tanguay's seamless transition to playing up the middle.
"Alex is such a good player and a smart player," the winger noted. "He's the kind of guy that you can put anywhere on the ice. He's going to make players around him better.
"He sees the ice so well so whoever he's on a line with are going to be some lucky guys. He's such a great playmaker that you've just got to find some open ice and get pucks on net."
HUDLER GRANTED LEAVE OF ABSENCE
Jiri Hudler's father has fallen ill and has been hospitalized in the Czech Republic. Hudler has been granted a leave of absence by the Flames as he tends to family matters back home.
"He got the news from back home that his dad was sick and in the hospital," Hartley said. "Hockey really is important in everybody's life but your family always comes number one. I told the players that we want to be a big family and if that is case, each individual in this organization has to take care of his own."
There is no timeline on Hudler's return to Canada.
"This is not important right now," Hartley said of his return date. "We told him to take care of his dad. He'll be in touch with us."
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