SUN Hockey Pool

Amonte closes in on goal mark

STEVE MacFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:38 AM ET

Small things sometimes offer big insights about a player. Take Tony Amonte's shoulder pads for example.

They're pencil thin and hardly look protective -- a fact that's not lost on Calgary Flames sniper Jarome Iginla.

"It's pretty impressive if you ask me," said Iginla, not bothering to suppress an ear-to-ear smile. "I wouldn't think they're protective enough for pee-wee, let alone the NHL.

"Let the fans see those. That shows you how gritty he is. You're going up against big d-men like (Robyn) Regehr, (Chris) Pronger and all the other guys around the league and he's battling in those and doing well."

Amonte has done well over the years. The winger is just eight scores away from reaching the 400-goal milestone. It looks like his shoulder pads have been there for all 392.

"They're OK," said the 13-year veteran of his gear, who would become only the 75th player in NHL history to reach the lofty 400-goal plateau. "They've done the job. They've worked for a few years and knock on wood they'll protect me."

The Flames' most recent free-agent acquisition insists there are no sentimental or superstitious reasons he dons the meagre outfit on a daily basis.

"No, just comfort," Amonte said with a laugh. "Everything's comfort these days."

Speaking of comfort, Iginla, Amonte and Daymond Langkow have formed a top line with some serious scoring potential. The trio combined for five goals, 10 points and a plus-9 rating over five pre-season appearances.

They can only improve as they grow more familiar with each other.

And the way Amonte was putting pucks past goaltenders Miikka Kiprusoff, Philippe Sauve and Brent Krahn during practice drills yesterday, it may not take long for that 400th goal. Not that the milestone is weighing on Amonte's mind.

"It's coming up pretty close. Really, the first time I thought about it was right there when you mentioned it," he said.

Amonte has been a consistent threat over the years, scoring 30 or more times in eight of his 13 NHL campaigns.

He managed 20 goals for Philadelphia in the last NHL season and the same total in 2002-03 with the Flyers and Phoenix Coyotes. But the speedy forward admits he'd love to bring his numbers back up to where they were when he starred with the Chicago Blackhawks in the mid and late '90s.

"Who wouldn't want to get back there?" said Amonte. "Everybody wants to score goals. It's the most fun thing to do while you're playing."

Skating opposite Iginla should make Amonte's transition to the Western Conference champs a smooth one and offer him every opportunity to return to form.

"It'll be great playing with one of the best players in the game in Jarome," said Amonte. "You've got to produce. You're on that line, you're going to have to create some offence. We've played together most of the pre-season. Hopefully, we can get some more chemistry ... and put some points up on the board."

Iginla is happy to have Amonte in the mix as a teammate and linemate.

"He's a very talented player, very quick. He works hard all the time ... He's happy to be first in there on the forecheck," said the Flames captain, adding Amonte is more than just a flashy scorer. "Before you play with him, you just think that he's very talented and fast and everything and (don't) really get to appreciate how much he digs and grinds and competes."

Even with those tiny pads on his shoulders.


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