After going almost the entire preseason without Jarome Iginla, the Calgary Flames received some good news on their captain's health and will have him ready for the opener.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have been waiting 10 months and still don't have their captain on the ice.
Iginla is expected to start on the first line for the Flames in Saturday night's season opener against the Sidney Crosby-less Penguins.
Iginla experienced back spasms during his first skate of training camp Sept. 17 and missed the next two weeks. He skated with the team for the first time Tuesday and reported no problems.
"The top players like that, they find ways," said coach Brent Sutter, who returns to Calgary's bench for a third season. "Jarome will find a way to make sure his game is where it needs to be. I'm not even concerned about it."
The Flames could not afford to lose Iginla, who played every game last season and was instrumental to their playoff push, which ultimately fell short.
After owning the Western Conference's second-worst record Dec. 21, Calgary compiled the West's second-best record over the rest of the season (27-11-9). It wasn't enough, however, finishing three points shy of the playoffs at 41-29-12.
Iginla carried Calgary in the second half, compiling 27 goals and 24 assists over the final 41 games. The franchise scoring leader finished third in the league in goals (43) and sixth in points (86), but he'll start this season without one of his linemates.
Center Mikael Backlund, expected to skate on the top line between Iginla and Alex Tanguay, will miss up to six weeks after undergoing surgery on his finger. He had 10 goals and 15 assists in 73 games in 2010-11, his first full season in the NHL.
While the Flames are eager to take the ice behind their captain, the Penguins are still without theirs.
Pittsburgh was missing Crosby in Thursday's season-opening 4-3 shootout win in Vancouver. Crosby, sidelined since Jan. 5 because of post-concussion symptoms, skated with his team Wednesday but hasn't been cleared for contact in practice and will miss at least the first few games.
"Crosby's, in my opinion, the best player in the world," Calgary defenseman Mark Giordano said. "That's a loss for them but you saw how they played without him last year. They were still one of the best teams in the league. They have a lot of weapons there and a lot of great players. We know it's going to be a challenge."
Crosby, however, almost single-handedly beat the Flames in their lone meeting last season, recording a hat trick in a 4-1 home win Nov. 27.
In Thursday's opener, Matt Cooke led Pittsburgh with two goals. It was an encouraging performance for the physical Cooke, who was suspended the final 10 games and first playoff round last season for his hit on the New York Rangers' Ryan McDonagh.
"When you go through tough times and are in a situation where it's desperate, if you have success early it makes it easy to feel good about what you are doing," said Cooke, who had his first multigoal game since Nov. 16, 2009.
Jordan Staal sat out the final eight minutes of the opener because of dehydration, but that is unlikely to keep him sidelined in Calgary, where Pittsburgh is 3-1-0 since 2002.
The Penguins have outscored the Flames 12-4 in winning four straight in the series. Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff has been on the losing end of each of those contests, posting a 2.48 goals-against average.
Kiprusoff, set to begin his seventh season as the Flames' starting goaltender, has been a workhorse between the pipes, appearing in more than 70 games each of the last six seasons.
Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury, who stopped 33 shots Thursday, is 2-1-0 with a 1.30 GAA and one shutout in four career starts against the Flames.