Flames' one-two combo clicks

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

All these years, the Calgary Flames have looked for the perfect playmaker to pair with Jarome Iginla.

Turns out having another triggerman isn't such a bad thing, either.

Michael Cammalleri is on a hot streak with six goals in five games and earned the NHL's second-star honours for his effort last week.

Groin and then rib injuries kept Cammalleri to a total of 19 goals and 28 assists in 63 games last season for the Los Angeles Kings.

Except for one missed game with the flu, the 26-year-old has been healthy and happy so far with the Flames.

It helps when you're back around the point-per-game production he enjoyed two years ago with the Kings.

"It's been fun for me here," said Cammalleri, who was picked up on draft day after the Flames dealt playmaker Alex Tanguay to Montreal.

The injuries and losing ways weighed on Cammalleri on the California coast.

Here, he figures the reason for his success can be attributed at least partially to his teammates.

Maybe one in particular.

"Playing with some pretty special players, namely the guy over there -- Jarome," said Cammalleri of his locker- room next-door neighbour.

Cammalleri's scoring ways have taken some heat off the Flames captain to be the go-to guy for goals.

There's talk about Iginla's lengthy stretch of eight games without a goal of his own, but there's little said about his mere presence taking pressure off teammates on the ice.

"He gets a lot of attention drawn to him, and it allows for guys he plays with -- like myself -- to get some opportunities," Cammalleri said.

"He's also very good at distributing the puck."

Chances are slim Iginla will crack the 50-goal mark for a third time, but he's poised to pass his previous best 55 assists by a handful, and his overall point production is on par with the last couple of seasons.

His skills as a setup guy are severely underrated.

"If you look at a guy like Brett Hull, he was probably the greatest shooter of all-time, his passing and playmaking was always underrated," Cammalleri said. "Jarome probably is the same -- he scores 50 goals so much, people forget how good a passer he is."

Part of the reason for that is Iginla's intention to be remembered as a sniper, not a setter. Just like Hull.

"It's like when I played with Brett Hull -- they're goal-scorers," said Craig Conroy, who often plays between Iginla and Cammalleri.

"I think if you said, 'If you could have five goals or five assists, what would you rather have?' For Jarome, it's goals."

Conroy tells a story about Hull, who responded with a mopey tone after the upbeat middleman complimented his former St. Louis Blues teammate on his game.

"I didn't get any goals," Conroy imitated. "They pay me to score goals."

It's Cammalleri doing the best on-ice Brett Hull imitation for the Flames these days. He's even got the trademark leg-drop lean into his one-timers.

"I knew coming in, Cammy's a shooter. He's got a great shot, great one-timer," Conroy said. "Right now, Cammy's got the hot hand."

He's willing to pass that torch back to Iginla.

"He's such a good player, such a good scorer, I feel like I want to get him the puck," Cammalleri said. "He's definitely done that more than enough for me. I'll try to continue to do the same for him."

But not at the risk of wasting a potential goal. Where guys like Alex Tanguay and Kristian Huselius were often guilty of trying too hard to get the puck to their captain, Cammalleri isn't afraid to shoot.

"We're trying to make the best play possible for our hockey team at that point. If guys are open, we want them to shoot," Cammalleri said.

"But at the same time, you play the percentages. A guy like Jarome, you'd like to get him the puck more often than not because the chances are it's going to start going in in bundles for him."


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