SUN Hockey Pool

Iginla enigma

The Calgary Flames' Jarome Iginla. (SUN/Al Charest)

The Calgary Flames' Jarome Iginla. (SUN/Al Charest)

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:18 PM ET

Like clockwork, Jarome Iginla finds himself in the cross hairs.

The season is young and, yet again, Iginla is off to a slow start.

Granted, the Flames standout has played only five games and it's difficult to imagine he won't be on track in time to be an offensive force.

But, right now, his numbers aren't looking good.

The captain and $21-million man has one goal and a pair of helpers, numbers that are hard to overlook when the team is off to a disappointing 1-3-1 start.

"I can be a lot better, there's no question, and I plan on being better. I'll work on that," said Iginla after yesterday's off-ice workout session.

"I'm getting some chances but haven't been able to put too many into the net. I'd like to be getting more chances. The goalies are good and are going to make quality saves but if you get enough quality chances, they'll go in. And I think they are going to, soon."

He'll try to break out tonight when the Flames host their rivals from Edmonton (8 p.m., CBC, FAN 960).

Watching Iginla get out of the blocks slowly isn't new around these parts and he knows it, too.

That's why he expected the questions would be coming soon.

One popular query: Is his extended break -- he didn't play during the lockout -- a factor in that slow start?

"I don't feel any different than any other season. I thought I might," said Iginla, who sits fourth on the franchise's all-time goals list (251) and seventh on the points list (506).

"Timing-wise and things like that, it just feels like the start of any other season.

"Physically, to be honest, my knees and shoulders feel a lot better with that big of a rest."

Having new linemates isn't an issue either, so what specifically is the issue?

"I've got to shoot more but, in order to do that, I've got to be moving better," he said.

"Actually, I think it's just (an) overall (problem). It really isn't one thing. Last game, I tried to skate a bit more and the legs didn't feel that bad. Sometimes, you can say I feel like I'm standing around or something like that but it doesn't feel that way.

"It'll just take one (goal) and then two and then you feel good. Everyone feels the same way. If you get one or two, everything looks bigger."

Right now, though, Iginla's slump looks awfully familiar.

During Iginla's breakout 2001-02 campaign, when he led the league with 52 goals, his second tally didn't come until Game 7.

"Looking over my career, unfortunately, I haven't had the greatest first 10 games," he said. "I've tried a lot of different things, a lot of different physical things and mentally, too. And I'm going to keep trying.

"It is frustrating because every player wants to contribute to their team's success and be a part of winning ... Hopefully I'll break out here against Edmonton."

If anything can be an extra motivator for any Flame, it's a meeting with the Oilers. First off, Edmonton, which has collected three wins in four games prior to last night's encounter with Dallas, already has the upper hand in the standings.

And seeing as division rivals meet eight times this season, the potential four-point swings are even bigger.

"It can be a real emotional boost for whichever team gets that win. Momentum's at stake," Iginla said.

"Everybody in our dressing room knows how big it is.

"Not going into this with a win, we want to get something started and there'd be no better place than against Edmonton."

The 34 career points Iginla has collected in meetings with Edmonton is his highest total against any one team.


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