SUN Hockey Pool

Nystrom no fan of Blueshirts

WES GILBERTSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:12 PM ET

When your father is nicknamed Mr. Islander, a certain sense of disdain for the New York Rangers is a given.

Calgary Flames winger Eric Nystrom spends his winters a long way from Long Island, but his feelings toward the Boys from Broadway certainly haven't changed.

"I watched the Islanders-Rangers for a long time, and you develop a hate for that team. Just because I play here doesn't mean that I don't still have that," Nystrom said. "I've seen so many Islanders-Rangers games, it's countless. I don't even know the number. I've seen so many great games and fights and goals. I'm lucky to have had that."

Heading into last night's Hockey Night in Canada showdown at the Saddledome, Nystrom had only suited up against the Rangers twice. His ill will toward the Blueshirts, though, dates back to long before he realized his NHL dreams.

Bob Nystrom was a fan favourite at Nassau Coliseum, where he played a starring role for the Isles between 1973 and 1986 and won four Stanley Cup rings. For five campaigns, he counted current Flames bench boss Brent Sutter among his Islanders teammates.

"Eric was just a little guy ... but he remembers all those heated rivalries with his dad from all those years between the Islanders and Rangers," Sutter said. "So I can understand him feeling that way."

Nystrom was held off the scoresheet in both of his previous outings against the Rangers and hit the Saddledome ice last night in search of his first career marker against the team he loathed as a youngster.

He was slated to skate alongside a couple of guys that know a thing or two about lighting the lamp.

Nystrom is the latest winger deployed to patrol the left side for big guns Jarome Iginla and Olli Jokinen on the Flames' top line, a plum assignment for a former first-rounder known more for his hard-nosed forechecking than his soft hands.

"It's obviously a treat," Nystrom said. "Those are obviously two of the elite guys in the league, and I just want to make sure I'm playing my style of game and not getting away from that.

"Those guys are more than capable of getting in there and winning battles, and that's what is so great about those two guys. They're big and they're strong and they're not afraid to mix it up physically, and that suits my game because I play that way, as well.

"It's a privilege playing with those guys."

Iginla, who seems to have emerged from his annual October swoon after scoring three times on a two-game road swing through Dallas and St. Louis, has seen a revolving door of left-wingers so far this season.

David Moss, Curtis Glencross and Fredrik Sjostrom have also skated on Calgary's top trio. Only time will tell if Nystrom can make it a permanent promotion.

"He loves to get in there. He's a very gritty guy, and he loves to crash the net," Iginla said. "As a line, we feel we're able to bring some skill, but we're going to really work on outcompeting and just trying to stay on them, put pressure on the other and really work for our chances."

WES.GILBERTSON@SUNMEDIA.CA


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