Cur­tis Lazar

Young for­ward healthy and happy to be on train­ing-camp ice with Flames

Calgary Sun - - SPORTS - KRIS­TEN OD­LAND

After only three days, Cur­tis Lazar can re­port that train­ing camp with the Cal­gary Flames has gone 100% bet­ter than last year’s train­ing camp with the Ot­tawa Sen­a­tors.

“Well ... I’m par­tic­i­pat­ing this year, so that’s dif­fer­ent,” the 22-year-old Kelowna res­i­dent said with a chuckle.

To­wards the end of the 2016 off-sea­son, Lazar had been stricken with mononu­cle­o­sis and was forced to miss the en­tire Sen­a­tors train­ing camp and a por­tion of the 2016-17 NHL sea­son.

When he re­turned, the for­mer Ed­mon­ton Oil Kings star des­per­ately tried to re-gain his con­di­tion­ing, and when he was re­called from the Sen­a­tors’ Amer­i­can Hockey League af­fil­i­ate in Bing­ham­ton, N.Y., he never re­ally fit into the team’s plans mov­ing for­ward.

En­ter the Cal­gary Flames, who struck a deal with the Sen­a­tors at the 2016-17 NHL trade dead­line.

“I feel like I be­long here and I’m in a good spot men­tally,” said Lazar after the Flames’ sec­ond ice-time of train­ing camp on Satur­day at the Sco­tia­bank Sad­dle­dome.

“I can go out there and be my­self. I think I showed that in the first ice ses­sion of how as­sertive I want to be. I’m skat­ing well and feel­ing strong on my feet.”

That’s likely be­cause Lazar re­ported to camp 10 lb. heav­ier, hav­ing gained all the weight he lost after hav­ing mono and added mus­cle onto his 6-foot-1 frame.

“I’ve put in the work this sum­mer,” Lazar said. “Ev­ery­one says, ’Oh you’re in the best shape of your life.’ Just stay­ing healthy was a big jump for my­self. I’m ready to go.”

The centre is try­ing to make an im­pres­sion, and, with a few spots among the Flames for­ward group, there’s a good chance he could crack the ros­ter.

Frankly, that jump has been a long time com­ing for Lazar who was once a point-pro­duc­ing star in ju­nior and, as the 17th over­all pick of the Sen­a­tors in 2013, has never re­ally had the same suc­cess at the NHL level.

“I want to be the player I was back in ju­nior and at the start of my NHL ca­reer,” said Lazar who, prior to com­ing to the Flames, had scored only 12 goals and 24 as­sists in 176 NHL games.

But, hey, that’s what the pre-sea­son is for, and the Flames kick things off Mon­day in a split-squad games against the Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers at the Sad­dle­dome (7 p.m.) and at Rogers Centre (7 p.m.).

“The prac­tices are just about get­ting the foot­speed down, but you re­ally don’t know where you’re at un­til you get into pres­sure sit­u­a­tions against guys that are the same cal­i­bre,” Lazar said. “You’re not just tak­ing it easy against your bud­dies. You’ll get your brain go­ing in a game like Mon­day against the Oil­ers.” @Kris­ten_Od­land

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