SUN Hockey Pool

Learning year for Jokinen

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

Olli Jokinen's first NHL playoff experience isn't what one would call memorable, but the Calgary Flames centre will recall it eventually.

Next year at this time, the veteran Finnish forward will look back on the feeling of losing in the first round and do whatever he can to avoid it.

The trade-deadline acquisition had two goals and three assists in six games as the Flames lost to the Chicago Blackhawks.

"(I) definitely want to get back there next year and go a lot farther than we did," said Jokinen, who played 799 regular-season games before making the post-season for the first time this year.

"It's a good experience, a lot of fun, but to play only six games and the team losing in the first round, you can't be satisfied."

Jokinen signed a two-year, free-agent deal with the Phoenix Coyotes this past off-season after seven seasons with the Florida Panthers.

The Flames acquired him from the Desert Dogs for a package that included Matthew Lombardi and Brandon Prust. The 31-year-old went from sunshine cities to a hockey hotbed, so the finish to this season is much more disappointing than in year's past.

"Overall, it was a learning experience," said Jokinen, who will make $5.5 million next year.

"It was a tough year, being in a couple of places, being dealt for the first time at the deadline, being in a hockey market.

"All that stuff was new for me and I'll be a lot more prepared next season."

Although Jokinen had a 16-game goalless drought to finish the season and start the playoffs, Flames head coach Mike Keenan reinforced his confidence in him yesterday.

"Jokinen is a No. 1 centre," Keenan said. "He showed everyone that, with more experience and familiarity with the group, he will continue to improve.

"He's definitely a No.-1 centre and this franchise hasn't had one for a while. No disrespect to others who played the position the last little while."

Asked what the Flames needed to get over the hump, Jokinen pointed to health.

"You look at the core group of guys here, and here a long time and going far in the playoffs and winning championships at every level they play," Jokinen said.

"I think the core group is here and there's a lot of young players going to battle for spots in the next training camp.


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