SUN Hockey Pool

Low blast ignites Iginla

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:31 AM ET

Facing Jarome Iginla's shots day after day, Curtis McElhinney has a good feel for what makes the Calgary Flames captain so dangerous.

"I still have a knuckle that hasn't fit back into place thanks to him," said the Flames netminder. "It's nice to know that low blocker shot's going in nowadays."

That low blocker shot is what Iginla used Saturday night to kick off his first hat-trick of the season and ninth of his career. It's been his deadliest finishing move during his current hot streak that has him near the top of the NHL's sniper list heading into tonight's contest against the host Ducks in Anaheim.

"He can put it where he wants to sometimes, and he's really doing it right now," McElhinney said.

With 11 goals in his last nine games, Iginla has shrugged off his early-season struggles.

"I'm feeling better," said Iginla, unable to pinpoint exactly what it is that has turned his game around after managing just four goals in his first dozen games.

Superstitious beasts that hockey players tend to be, Iginla could easily credit his latest stick blades, which boast bigger curves than he's used in the past.

"It reminds me to have that mentality to shoot," Iginla said. "To attack.

"It definitely is a mindset. I'm probably into it more than I was earlier."

Adjusting to a new system -- and to a coach with different expectations of how a team should function -- has certainly added to the complications in trying to be the go-to guy in the scoring department for the 32-year-old captain.

But having him at his intense best is essential for the Flames to have success.

"Players feed off that. His teammates feed off that," said Flames head coach Brent Sutter.

"It's really important. No. 1, for his sake, because he's more effective on the ice. It's not just about physical engagement. When Jarome's moving his feet, everything in his game comes easier for him."

Using speed to open the scoring just 13 seconds into Saturday's 5-2 win over the Kings in Los Angeles, Iginla showed he could use his instincts to find a seam on the powerplay to snipe his second goal of the night.

His third came on a rebound near the net, earning him more than a dozen hats from the crowd at the Staples Center and the praise of his coach, who hasn't had the easiest time getting the best out of his star on a nightly basis.

"We all sometimes need some guidance in how we need to do things and how we need to play," Sutter said. "It's really important. You can't take that for granted as a player, and you can't take that for granted as a coaching staff."

Amped for Saturday's game well before the puck dropped, Iginla admits it's not always that easy to be in that zone.

"It's nice. Over 80 games, you might feel like that 20, where the beginning of the game you just feel really good, you have that buzz," Iginla said. "I would say 40 of them, you're right in the middle -- you work at it. Then 20 of them, unfortunately -- and you want that number as low as possible -- you feel terrible."

STEVE.MACFARLANE@SUNMEDIA.CA


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