KITCHENER, Ont. - Patrick Chan isn't planning any chest thumping or finger wagging - he believes his skating will get the message across.
A few weeks after he suffered a calf injury that sidelined him from a Grand Prix event in Russia, the Toronto skater will finally make his season debut at HomeSense Skate Canada International this weekend and is eager to show the world how well he's doing.
"I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about it," Chan said Thursday.
Chan was to open his season at the Rostelecom Cup a month ago in what was an anticipated showdown between the young Canadian star and Evgeni Plushenko, back on the ice for the first time since the Russian won gold at the 2006 Turin Olympics.
But the 18-year-old Chan tore his left calf muscle in training beforehand and was forced to pull out. Plushenko went on to win, and in a display that didn't sit well with some, pounded his chest and lifted one finger in victorious salute, his way of saying he was back on top.
"It of course gets you pretty pumped up to do well here at Skate Canada," Chan said. "I don't blame him, I think he can get away with it because he was in his home country.
"But unfortunately I don't think he knows that there are other skaters who have changed and evolved since he's been taking a break the last four years. So I don't think he'll be expecting what a lot of the skaters including me are, how much better we've got since he won the Olympics last."
"I'm excited to have the chance to compete against him," Chan added. "He's a great competitor, I really looked up to him when I was young and I still look up to him."
Chan, who captured silver at last year's world championships, will be among several Canadians favoured to win this weekend at The Aud. Joannie Rochette of Ile-Dupas, Que., silver medallist at the worlds last spring in Los Angeles, is back to defend her Skate Canada crown. Tessa Virtue of London, Ont., and Scott Moir of Ilderton, Ont., return to Skate Canada after missing last year's event while Virtue recovered from surgery to both her legs, while Jessica Dube of St-Cyrille-de-Wendover, Que., and Bryce Davison of Huntsville, Ont., is Canada's top pairs entry.
Chan said he's feeling close to 100 per cent. His injury cost him a good two weeks of training during which he was able to do run-throughs of his programs but without any of his jumps. He was also forced to rethink his practice strategy, focusing on quality more than quantity.
He sought out the help of a couple of specialists. Trainer Andy O'Brien, who lists Sidney Crosby among his clients, helped Chan develop a better warmup. He received massage therapy from Mark Lindsay, who's worked with countless Olympic and professional athletes.
"It was kind of a blessing in disguise," Chan said of the injury. "Because I wouldn't have met these people, I wish I'd met these people three years ago."
He underwent state-of-the-art physiotherapy in which he had his own blood drawn, spun and concentrated and then injected back into his injured muscle.
"It was really cool, I felt like a king," Chan said.
Finally back on the ice after a roller-coaster few weeks, the two-time Canadian champ admitted he sees this weekend as a chance to make a statement.
"I've never been so excited because, trust me, it sucks really bad to sit back and watch other guys compete when you're sitting at home and hearing about it," Chan said at Thursday's opening news conference. "There's a lot of improvements made to my program, my long (to Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Phantom of the Opera") is new, and my short is totally different, there's a lot of parts you won't even recognize even though it's the same music (Walter Taieb's "Tango de los Exilados").
"I'm so excited to just show you guys how much I've improved from last year."
Because Skate Canada is Chan's only Grand Prix event, he can't qualify for the Grand Prix final, so this weekend also marks his only international compeition before he steps on the ice at the Pacific Coliseum for the Vancouver Olympics in February.
Skate Canada officials aren't too concerned.
"He's competed for a long time, he's had multiple events (over his career)," said Mike Slipchuk, Skate Canada's high performance director. "The key thing is, 'Am I healthy?' More of a concern would be if he had gone to Russia, injured himself more, missed Skate Canada, maybe missed Canadians, then had to step into Vancouver, that would have been a concern.
"But he's competing from now until Vancouver, so you can build that momentum."
Virtue and Moir are at the other end of the spectrum. They missed the entire 2008 Grand Prix season after Virtue's surgery to alleviate chronic shin pain, but managed to rebound to win bronze at the world championships. They arrived in Kitchener this week healthy, and more prepared than ever.
"It kind of hit us a little bit later last year, we were like, we had no business being (on the podium at worlds), we hadn't trained or done anything, we were really quite lucky," said Moir. "To look back, and think, 'We can do that? Wow.' It really helps us, and feel like we can do anything, and perform under any circumstance, big learning step last year."
Added Virtue: "It does help when we remember that... Going into events like this, we have to think, we're so well-trained, we're so prepared, it's nice to take the ice and have that comfort."
For Rochette, a five-time Canadian champion, any chance to compete at home is welcome.
"It's so much fun, and when they call your name, the crowd cheers, there's just this warm feeling when you get on the ice, you feel pampered," Rochette said.
While the 23-year-old is trying not to look too far ahead to the Vancouver Games, she said it's difficult not to notice the Olympic buzz in the air.
"It's motivating for me to get on the ice, because if one day I wake up and I don't feel like training, my body's tired, I go down the street to do my groceries and someone wishes me luck for the Olympics, so I go to the rink and I'm really pumped to get on the ice," Rochette said.