Was it the excitement in his eyes that gave away Alex Tanguay's feelings, or his smile? It was difficult to miss either, but just in case you did, there were his words. "I'm excited," Tanguay said with a declaratory laugh. "I'm anxious for this challenge. I'm looking forward to helping this team." If it was only that, it would be enough, wouldn't it? But the Lightning left wing has more on his plate, such as perhaps helping center Vinny Lecavalier reclaim his place as one of the world's best players and getting his own career back on track. "I have things to prove," Tanguay said Saturday as training camp opened at the Ice Sports Forum. "I have to prove myself."
The best-case scenario for everyone?
Tanguay, using his skating, puck-possession and passing skills, sparks linemate Lecavalier to a 40-goal, 90-point season. Tanguay, with a one-year contract for a bargain $2.5 million, parlays his 80-or-so points into a fatter payday, and the team benefits with a return to the playoffs.
Anything can happen when putting together lines, and coach Rick Tocchet would commit only to looking at a pairing of Tanguay and Lecavalier. But it is clear the 29-year-olds covet the combination.
"We don't know how it's going to play out," Tanguay said, "but we know at the start what they want me to do, so it's nice."
"He's a great playmaker. He's proven that," Lecavalier said. "He's got good vision. The way I see him play, it would be a great match."
Teammate Todd Fedoruk, who saw Tanguay a lot when both were in the Western Conference, believes so, too.
"Good things happen when you put two guys like that together," Fedoruk said. "They're creative. They have imagination for plays."
Of Tanguay, Fedoruk said, "He definitely plays hard-nosed, and he can score. He has a great shot."
But not the results the past two seasons. After scoring 18 goals for the Flames in 2007-08, Tanguay missed 32 games last season with a shoulder injury and scored 16 for the Canadiens. That after four straight seasons with at least 20.
Lecavalier's 29 goals and 67 points last season were his second straight decline and well off highs of 52 and 108.
"The good thing is that Alex is a very good passer and Vinny is a sniper," Tocchet said. "Vinny is the type of guy who needs someone to get him the puck in certain situations, so it's a match that can work."
Tanguay isn't intimidated, either, after playing with Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg with the Avalanche. "It's exciting," he said.
But he admitted it will take work: "I don't know who I'm going to play with, but there definitely is an adjustment period. That's what training camp is for."
"You have to get them the puck quickly," Tanguay said. "If you do that, just moving your feet. If you move your feet and move around, those guys have so much skill, the puck's eventually going to find the back of the net."
And that would be exciting for everyone.