'Rough start' turns pretty

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- Olli Jokinen was being told his Calgary Flames debut was a picture of perfection, when he quickly interjected.

"I think I had a pretty rough first two shifts," Jokinen said. "The first shift, we spent almost one minute in our own end, and the second shift, I got a penalty.

"It was a rough start."

After that, though, last night's 5-1 beatdown of the Philadelphia Flyers was a thing of beauty for the club and Jokinen.

For the past few years, the Flames have been interested in trying to find a way to unite Jokinen with Jarome Iginla.

Jokinen is the big, skilled and legitimate first-line centre all teams crave.

Iginla is the star winger who can dominate a game but never really had that top-flight man-in-the-middle to skate alongside.

The theory has long been it would be a match made in heaven.

After their first game together, you can't help but think selling the farm years ago to bring Jokinen to Calgary would have been worth it because that was pure magic.

Instant chemistry, too.

It was supposed to take time for the three parts of the team's newly created top line to gel, but Jokinen, Iginla and Michael Cammalleri had their way with the Philadelphia Flyers, combining for three goals and seven points.

"Good players learn to read off each other quickly," Flames head coach Mike Keenan said.

"Their instincts for the game surface when they're playing together. I thought that was fairly apparent tonight."

Sure, it's only one night, and it came against a Flyers team that was hardly at the top of its game and received substandard goaltending from starting netminder Antero Niittymaki.

But the goals scored by that trio -- two by Jokinen and one courtesy Cammalleri -- weren't the only chances they created.

Each could have scored a couple of goals. Guess that's what happens when you have a trio of shooters who all also know how to dish the puck when needed.

"The too-cute passing plays, I don't think you have to worry about seeing those because we all like to shoot," Iginla said with a smile.

"I was looking at Olli's stats, and he's got 50-assist seasons, scored close to 40 goals regularly, so he can do both.

"And we know Cammy can shoot and pass, and I like to think I can try to do the same.

"We want to all be threats and we want teams not be able to key on one thing."

Opposing players won't, and Keenan is relishing that thought.

"That makes them dangerous," Keenan said. "The opposition can't zero in and say, 'This guy's a passer and that guy's a shooter.' They're all shooters, and that being the case, it's very difficult to predict what's going to happen."

For the most part, the Flames knew what they were getting in Jokinen, but his debut did throw a couple of wrinkles, Iginla pointed out.

"He's quicker than I thought. There was one time he was flying, and I thought I could drive to the middle and catch him, but I couldn't catch him," he said with a laugh.

Not to be lost in the shuffle is the impact Jordan Leopold made in his return to the Flames.

The blueliner looked like he never left, logging more than 23 minutes of ice time almost solely paired with Dion Phaneuf.

Leopold's contribution to the scoresheet was a goal to make it 4-0, but he had a big impact with the kind of game Flames fans remember seeing plenty of during this three seasons in a Calgary uniform.

"He had a real solid game," Keenan said.

"As I said (Wednesday), he can play minutes, and he showed it. He's a solid defender, moves the puck well. He's a real big addition to our team.

"I'm sure, as well, it helped him find a comfort level because he knows the group he's coming into as opposed to going to a brand new team."

Leopold agreed that sense of security factored into his performance, but so did a few other feelings.

"It's nice being wanted and it's nice to win," he said.

"The way things were going in Colorado, it was tough to play, tough to suit up every night. It's not fun when you're not winning.

"To come to a team that's a contender, putting points on the boards, getting wins night in and night out makes a big difference."

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NEW GUYS' NUMBERS

OLLI JOKINEN

20:44 ICE TIME

2 goals, 4 shots, plus-2, 8-4 on faceoffs

Played solely on a line with Jarome Iginla and Michael Cammalleri.

JORDAN LEOPOLD

23:05 ICE TIME

1 goal, 2 shots, plus-2

Paired mainly with Dion Phaneuf. Saw a bit of second-unit powerplay time.


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