SUN Hockey Pool

No watching Sid show in Calgary

Pittsburgh Penguins' (l-r) Colby Armstrong, Sidney Crosby and Ryan Malone celebrate Armstrong's...

Pittsburgh Penguins' (l-r) Colby Armstrong, Sidney Crosby and Ryan Malone celebrate Armstrong's goal as Edmonton Oilers' Ladislav Smid skates (Sun Media/Photo by Darryl Dyck)

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 2:38 PM ET

Sidney Crosby is considered one of the best, if not the best player in the NHL.

Calgary Flames fans are pretty adamant their favourite star, Jarome Iginla, deserves that same billing.

Could make for a pretty good showdown tonight when the Flames play host to Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight (7 p.m., Sportsnet).

Maybe we'll even see Iginla unveil one of the reasons fans love him so -- his ability to drop the gloves -- and duke it out with Sid the Kid.

"I don't know how popular I'd be around the league," Iginla said laughing.

The excitement of Crosby's first NHL game in Calgary is building in the Stampede City. And you can forgive fans for anticipating the showdown between two of the top players in the game.

For the Flames, though, the game is first and foremost about winning, although Iginla said he relishes the chance to face top players.

"It's a nightly thing," he said. "You look before the game and you know who their scoring line is and who you're gonna be matched up against. You want to be better.

"A lot of those matchups, there's a history, where you're thinking, 'He got me last game, so I've got to get him this game,' or 'I got him last game' or 'We got that line last game.'

"This time, there's not really a lot of history, but there is that challenge. You want to outplay them that night for a number of reasons, one is winning and the other is to see how you stack up."

Rest assured, Iginla is as much a star as Crosby, but there is something special about the reigning MVP finally skating in NHL togs in Calgary. And Iginla is fine with the youngster's billing.

"I think the hype is good, and it's legitimate. What he's done already is extremely impressive," Iginla said.

"It's more for the fans (to focus on). For us, we approach it as another win, trying to get back first to .500.

"It is a good challenge, because we have watched what he's done, and (Evgeni) Malkin and their team. But I think it's more competitive than excitement."

Head coach Mike Keenan has seen his share of stars, coached many and faced even more, but relishes the impact a player like Crosby can have on the game.

"Marquee players are extremely important, particularly in the U.S., but we enjoy watching them in Canada as well. They bring energy to the game, they definitely show that hockey players are elite athletes," he said.

"He wants to be the very best player in the game. I've seen it with Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux -- coaching both of them -- they had the passion and the commitment and the idea they wanted to be the best players.

"They played in the same era and they pushed each other to be better players, just from their own rivals even from a distance. Sidney falls into that same category."

Save for Cory Sarich, who faced Crosby eight times over two seasons while with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Crosby hasn't been an opponent for most Flames.

However, defenceman Dion Phaneuf has been a teammate, linking up for Canada's gold-medal winning world junior team at the 2005 tournament. They had a celebrated run-in during the previous summer camp, but Phaneuf said that came out of respect for each other's determination.

"I think everyone knows he competes. I played with him and played against him at a lot of camps and he competes and plays hard every night," Phaneuf said.

"That's why he's one of the top players in the league, if not the top player in the league right now. He's a very special player. But right now, we've got to win hockey games. That's the bottom line, and it's a big two points for our hockey team.

"When he's on the ice you gotta be aware of him. If not, he's gonna make you pay."


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