They're No. 1 with a bullet

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:25 AM ET

Jarome Iginla had high hopes to start the season.

Not just for himself but for a top line he envisioned as one of the league's elite.

Tuesday night against St. Louis, Calgary Flames fans saw what Iginla was talking about in September.

Left-winger Alex Tanguay, centre Daymond Langkow and right-winger Iginla formed the game's most dominant trio from start to finish and could manage to stick together for a while -- something that hasn't happened often for any Flames combo this season.

"The line has potential to do a lot of good things," said Langkow yesterday. "We were skating well and getting open for each other. Both Iggy and Tangs made some great passes.

"I just want to continue to play that way."

Iginla has had a spectacular start on a personal level and Langkow is on pace to match his numbers from a year ago.

But Tanguay has been the missing piece many hoped would put that top line into the same category as New Jersey's EGG line (Patrik Elias-Brian Gionta- Scott Gomez) or the Vancouver Canucks' Swedish threesome (Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Markus Naslund).

The dynamic playmaker, who will turn 27 this month, has been bounced back and forth between the top two lines this season but has put together three straight double-assist performances, including a jaw-dropping display in the Flames' 3-0 win over the Blues during which he feathered quick passes to Langkow and defenceman Andrew Ference for easy goals.

"I'm starting to feel (a part of) the team," said Tanguay, who has had to adjust to a new club, new system and new city since joining the Flames in a draft-day trade.

"It took a little bit longer to adjust than I would have expected but now, hopefully, I can keep playing well."

Tanguay isn't making excuses for the first dozen games but admits a move like the one he made from Colorado wasn't easy.

"You need to be healthy when you come to the ice, you need to be happy. You need to be focused on what you need to be doing and when there's outside things bothering you, you don't play as well," said Tanguay.

"That's true for everybody."

Iginla has noticed an increased comfort level for his on-again, off-again linemate.

"I imagine there'd be a lot of changes, a lot of adjustments. He just, all the way around, seems more comfortable," said Iginla, adding Tanguay is a self-admitted slow starter. "All those things probably add to it. You can just see he's catching his groove right now."

While the newcomer had to find ways to gel with his new teammates on the ice, he was also trying to get to know them on a more personal level off it.

Tanguay's familiarity with the fun-loving and tightly knit group has gradually progressed.

As has his performance.

Anyone who has been in the Flames dressing room and seen the guys interact knows it can be an intimidating place for a virtual stranger.

"I'm pretty quiet. I do my own things. I don't do or say a whole lot," said Tanguay.

"It's just nice to know everybody on a personal basis so you can talk to everybody, know what everybody is about.

"It's good now. I'm getting to know everybody. I'm getting accustomed to the city. That was a big move, too. After seven years, I was starting to call Denver home.

"Now I've got a new home."

And if Iginla's pre-season wish is to come true, Tanguay may have a permanent home on the top line.

"When you're having success as a team, lines tend to stay the same," said Iginla.

"If your line's not (changing), it's a good thing."

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TRIO GRANDES

A handful of the most dangerous No. 1 lines in the NHL:

1. San Jose's Mark Bell-Joe Thornton-Jonathan Cheechoo.

2. New York Rangers' Martin Straka-Michael Nylander-Jaromir Jagr.

3. Vancouver's Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Markus Naslund.

4. New Jersey's Patrik Elias-Brian Gionta- Scott Gomez.

5. Anaheim's Chris Kunitz-Andy MacDonald-Teemu Selanne.


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