SUN Hockey Pool

Nigel takes turn on top trio

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:16 AM ET

LOS ANGELES -- Nigel Dawes finally got his turn.

When Dawes skated on left wing alongside Olli Jokinen and Jarome Iginla during the Flames 2-1 win against the San Jose Sharks Saturday, he became the ninth forward to line up in that spot this season.

We're not talking the ninth guy to skate for a shift or two with Iginla and Jokinen. That's the ninth guy to have at least a couple of periods in that spot.

"I guess everyone on the roster's had a chance," Dawes joked prior to last night's late tilt against the L.A. Kings, a battle that saw Dawes fill a role on the top line for the entire game.

Not quite everybody, but only three forwards haven't been in that spot: Second-line centre Daymond Langkow -- with whom Dawes played all season prior to the last couple of games -- Brandon Prust and Brian McGrattan are the odd-men out. But every other forward, plus AHL callup Jamie Lundmark, have. At this rate, you can't help but wonder which defencemen will be used alongside the pair.

"There are a lot of games left," said Dawes, who started last night's game on the top line. "I found out before the game I was going to play there, and the coach told me not to change my game. Those are good players, but I think you can't be looking for them too much.

"You've got to give them the puck when they need it, but you can't force things."

If skating on that line wasn't enough of a challenge, the trio mainly faced the Sharks top line of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley, the most offensively productive line in the league.

Talk about an eye-opener, especially when you realize how much size they all have to go with that talent.

"When you're playing against guys like that, you have to play smart," Dawes said. "I don't think I'm going to run them over, chances are I won't be too successful. It's positioning and using your head."

The Flames chose to use Robyn Regehr and Dion Phaneuf on defence against Thornton's line. San Jose opted for Dan Boyle and Douglas Murray as their blueliners against Calgary's No.-1 line.

Add the goalies to the mix -- Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff and San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov -- and 11 of the 12 players are candidates for the Olympic tournament in February.

"Where do I fit in that group?" Dawes asked, knowing he was the odd-man out. "On the bench, Iggy said 'It's not going to be easy,' and I said, 'No, it's not, but I know it's going to be fun.' "

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA

THREE STARS

AS CHOSEN BY RANDY SPORTAK

JARRET STOLL

Go-ahead second-period goal was only part of his impact.

MARK GIORDANO

Played well over his average minutes with Robyn Regehr out.

JONATHAN QUICK

Wasn't over-run with shots, but came up with key saves.


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