Jarome Iginla

Uh oh: Jarome Iginla leaves first camp skate with back spasms

After the regular season the Calgary Flames had last year in rallying late to fall three points shy of the playoffs, you could call today’s start to training cam an inauspicious one for the franchise.

During today’s action at the team’s first skate of the new year, captain Jarome Iginla got his season off on the wrong foot. ¬†Iginla left the team’s skate after dealing with back spasms in the first half hour, leaving some to get a bit nervous about how the 34 year-old right wing might be able to handle a full season. After a huge regular season last year that saw Iginla lead the team with 43 goals and 86 points, seeing Iginla duck off the ice after just a half hour would be enough to give any Flames fan fits.

Iginla, however, is taking a much more reasonable approach to how his back is making him feel and how he’ll manage it moving forward.

“Unfortunately, after I’d started a little bit, I had a little bit of a spasm there,” Iginla said later. “It’s nothing I haven’t had before. I’ve had them during the season at different times.

“I thought it was better to be safe than keep aggravating it.”

At 34, Iginla is more cautious about aches and pains than he once was.

“When you’re younger, you’d push through it a little bit and I’d push and you learn it probably causes more problems and lasts longer,” he said.

Iginla is very positive about things, but ditching out on the team’s first skate of the year certainly gives a good reason for Flames fans to be nervous right off the bat. After all, Iginla is just the Flames best player, top goal scorer, and perennial MVP-caliber player. Iginla has played every game of the year for the last four seasons so seeing this slight crack in his armor is alarming. Of course, Iginla says he’s dealt with it before so perhaps he’s just a tougher guy than the rest of us mortals.

Thankfully for Calgary, Iginla is smart enough to know when to not push things more and when it’s the first practice of the season, there’s zero need to push yourself to the hilt at that moment in training camp. It doesn’t appear to be overly serious, but it’s an injury situation worth keeping an eye on through camp and the regular season.

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”