SUN Hockey Pool

Flames hardly star-ved

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:56 AM ET

The NHL gets so many things wrong when it comes to their all-star game, but one thing they got right is sending Jarome Iginla to Montreal as the lone representative from the Calgary Flames.

You could argue cases for goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff deserving to be there over an injured Roberto Luongo or fan-voted Jean-Sebastien Giguere -- who isn't even his team's best netminder this season -- and blueliner Robyn Regehr being worthy of a spot for all he does for his team.

But without the flashy offensive upside the all-star game covets, defensive stalwart Regehr will sadly never see ice time at the annual skills competition.

Dion Phaneuf has struggled mightily offensively, and every time head coach Mike Keenan defends Phaneuf's abysmal plus-minus rating through the first half of the season, it rings hollow.

Kiprusoff's slow start has hurt his numbers, and his impressive collection of wins are as much a reflection of the team's impressive play.

The team's performance is why Iginla is the obvious choice. The captain is on pace for a third-straight 90-plus-point season, but has done it as quietly as ever.

He's exploded in some games, such as the New Year's Eve outing, when he set a new career-high with five points, and imploded in others, such as the minus-4 outing in Chicago last weekend.

Iginla's not dominating games anymore.

He doesn't have to.

"We're definitely a lot deeper," Iginla said. "It feels great. To be on our team feels really good. Different nights, different guys have been hot. Different lines have been going."

Things sure are different these days.

There was a time the offence was Iginla or nothing. But the Flames have won five straight games with their captain held off the scoresheet.

Before mid-December, the team had a 2-6-3 record when Iginla was shut out.

Sitting fifth in league scoring prior to last night's action with 18 goals and 46 points through 40 games, Iginla is still an elite scorer.

"He's still fifth in the league in scoring, so he's been doing it, but he hasn't had to do it," said his pal Craig Conroy.

"If he has a game where he doesn't get a point, it's OK, because we've got other guys doing it. Everyone's contributing."

Iginla will represent them all in Montreal Jan. 24-25.

Fan opinions will be batted around in the coming days with players such as Mike Modano, Keith Tkachuk, and Milan Hejduk making the roster over some of the more deserving stars. Keep in mind the league tries to have every team represented, and their brutal method of online voting for the starters narrows those spots down even more.

One opening for the Flames couldn't be filled by anyone else.

"I'm thrilled to get an opportunity to go there," Iginla said yesterday.

With two goals in his last nine games, he's not exactly holding a hot hand, but he's keeping his fingers crossed he can have some success in his fifth all-star appearance.

"I'm goal-less in the past. I'm not going to talk about it this year -- that's the last time I'm going to mention it -- but maybe this year I can get one."

If he can't, at least Iginla will be returning to a team capable of picking him up when he's down.


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