Calgary Flames' Jay Bouwmeester, right, signs autographs for fans following the first day of training camp in Calgary on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CALGARY - When the Calgary Flames finally got in their first practice of the season at the Scotiabank Saddledome, their captain was nowhere to be seen on the ice.
Instead Jarome Iginla watched from the owners' box, while the rest of his teammates took in their long-awaited first skate.
The Flames say a groin injury kept Iginla off the ice, but add the move is precautionary.
"We told Jarome that we didn't want him to skate today," said Flames general manager Jay Feaster. "We said that we won't get any points this week, but next Sunday we'd like to pick up two.
"It's nothing that we're concerned about. It's just that we don't want to push right now when we don't think there's a reason to do that."
With the Flames set to start the National Hockey League with back-to-back home games against the San Jose Sharks on Sunday and the Anaheim Ducks on Monday, coach Bob Hartley said he didn't want to take any chances by having Iginla re-aggravate the injury.
"He wanted to go because he's the captain," said Hartley, who told Iginla that he didn't want him to start training camp until he felt 100 per cent. "He reacted very professionally. If it had been any other player, we would have done exactly the same thing. We're going to do what's best for them because what's best for them is best for the organization."
Hartley said he expects Iginla to be cleared to get back on the ice with his teammates shortly.
"He's very close," Hartley said. "If we would be playing tonight, most likely he would be in the lineup."
Iginla said he understands why he's being kept out until he can handle full-contact practices.
"I'm just trying to be ready because, if you saw practice today, it was pretty intense," Iginla said. "It's a slight pull. I want to be ready as soon as I can be. It's hard to watch."
Forward Alex Tanguay said he fully expects Iginla to be back ready to play in time for Sunday's home opener at the Saddledome.
"When you have nagging injuries, you certainly don't want to make it worse," Tanguay said. "Going through a skate like this, you better be ready.
"Jarome's a guy that's always been in tremendous shape so we're not really worried. I know when it comes time to play, Jarome's always ready and that's what we expect out of him."
Forward Roman Cervenka and defenceman Anton Babchuk also missed the first day of training camp with the Flames.
Although the blood clots that Cervenka developed while playing for Lev Prague of the KHL earlier this season are no longer present, the Czech forward is still on anti-coagulant medication. Feaster explained that Cervenka won't be cleared to skate until being examined further by a hematology specialist in the United States.
"As soon as he's free to come off the anti-coagulant medication, then he would be cleared to skate," Feaster said. "He is disappointed. He's anxious. He wants to be out there. This is about a career for the Calgary Flames and Roman together. It's not about the first day of training camp."
Babchuk, meanwhile, suffered a shoulder injury while playing for Donbass HC of the KHL and Feaster said he expects him to be sidelines for three weeks.
During the first day of camp, Tanguay centred the top line with left-winger Curtis Glencross and Blake Comeau on right-wing in place of Iginla.
"It's going to go by fast and we're going to try make the best out of it," said Tanguay in regards to the short time span all 30 teams are facing to prepare for the season. "We feel lucky to be starting here at home. We feel lucky to have an extra day to practise. We feel anxious to get going. It's going to be exciting. It's going to be a race all the way to the finish."
Rookie forward Sven Baertschi played left wing on a line with centre Mikael Backlund and right winger Michael Cammalleri.
During a five-game emergency call-up situation from the Western Hockey League's Portland Winterhawks last season, Baertschi scored three goals in five games for the Flames. The 20-year-old Swiss sniper, who recorded 94 points in 47 games with Portland last year, became an immediate fan favourite in Calgary.
"I hope I can make an impact on this team," Baertschi said. "The hype is huge which puts a lot of pressure on me. On the other side of it, it's nice to have that kind of pressure and take it as a challenge for me personally, because I have high expectations for myself too."
About 300 to 400 fans took in Calgary's first on-ice training camp session at the Saddledome and they were treated to free hot dogs, popcorn and pop.
"Calgary, it's a hockey city," Baertschi said. "People are excited here about this organization. I think everybody in the room appreciates it. You can tell the fans are back here and they're excited to have hockey back."