Sunday, September 15, 2013

Klimchuk Making The Most Of His Time With Flames

They were drafted in the first round together just three months ago in New Jersey.

Weeks later, they made their debut together at Development Camp in Calgary.

But while Sean Monahan and Emile Poirier stepped on the ice at the Scotiabank Saddledome together for the first time on Saturday, Morgan Klimchuk stepped through the press box.

Unable to join his fellow 2013 NHL Draftees in Flames' opening preseason game against the Edmonton Oilers in Calgary, Klimchuk has remained sidelined with an abdominal wall strain originally suffered while in camp with his Regina Pats.

And while the injury sounds painful, it's nothing compared to being forced to simply watch.

"Having to watch (hurts)," said Klimchuk, who has been skating with a handful of others still in the infirmary. "I was pretty excited to come to my first NHL training camp and to get hurt before was something that was pretty devastating.

"I've been doing it for a little bit now and it's not as bad watching anymore but it's definitely still tough."

Klimchuk -- who was born in Calgary and grew up with Flames season tickets -- isn't about to put a pout on about the injury.

After all, that's not productive.

"That's part of the game," the 18-year-old said. "It's going to happen in your career and you can't let injuries or anything like that get you down. [Monahan and Poirier] are older than me. At this time next year, I'll be doing the same thing they're doing this year. That's fine with me. I just want to make sure when I get back I'm 100 percent and I'm not rushing back and not completing the process properly.

"I'm still probably the youngest guy here I think and hopefully I get a chance in the future. I've just got to make sure I'm paying my dues and getting back ready when I'm ready to play."

Because it's not all bad on the sidelines.

Despite long, lonely skates and the lack of game action, the Regina Pats standout is getting plenty of value in his time camping in Calgary.

"It's still a great experience being here," Klimchuk said. "You see what everyone goes through and you know what to expect next year. It's an advantage in itself.

"I'm still around the guys, still with the guys and still training with the guys and skating with some of them. It's not like I'm completely on the sidelines. I'm still pretty involved in everything that's going on here. I'm fortunate enough to sit in all the meetings. The only thing I can't do is play.

"Obviously you don't want to be doing that but it's an advantage for sure coming back next year knowing what to expect."

With open eyes and open ears, Klimchuk has given himself a leg up for next year's camp.

The biggest lesson learned to date? Being a pro off the ice.

"How to act as a professional, how seriously they take training, their flexibility and making sure everything is in working order and the way it should be every day," he said. "You don't take any time off here. You'll play a game, practice and then work out again just to get a little extra in and try to get yourself ahead of the pack.

"To see the best players in pro hockey like Cammalleri work that much harder is eye opening and something I can really appreciate."

It's something he can take back to the Pats.

Coincidently, though, Regina is another sore spot for the 6-foot, 180-pound winger.

With the Flames scheduled to tangle with the New York Islanders at the Brandt Centre on Tuesday night in Regina, Klimchuk agonized about missing an opportunity to showcase himself in front of his Western Hockey League fans.

"That's probably one of the toughest parts," he said. "I was looking forward to playing in that game but injuries are a part of your career and you can't really dwell on it too much because that's not going to benefit anyone."

Besides, complaining won't make him heal faster.

"There's a process you've got to go through and I understand that," Klimchuk admitted. "It's a little bit of a jump up from getting injured in junior but you go through the process to get back in game shape and you try to get back playing.

"I have no problem with that."

Even if it has forced him to watch his peers from the press box during his first camping trip in Calgary.

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