SUN Hockey Pool

Jokinen reeling in Flames red

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:09 AM ET

It's easy to understand why Flames fans don't have much love for Olli Jokinen.

They never seem to see the centre at his best.

Or even producing, for that matter.

While Jokinen's tenure in Flames silks has not become the triumph hoped or expected when he was acquired at last year's trade deadline, it hasn't been a complete flop, either.

You just have to follow the team's fortunes on the road to see his impact.

This season, Jokinen -- who was supposed to be the perfect centre for Jarome Iginla -- has collected 24 points (8-16-24) in 27 road games.

Flames faithful would be happy with a duplication of those numbers at home.

However, the Saddledome has been doom and gloom for Jokinen, with only nine points (3-6-9) in 27 games.

The discrepancy has not gone unnoticed.

"It's pretty obvious. You look at our home record -- as a team we're .500, and all those stats go hand-in-hand with it," Jokinen said. "I'm a big believer if the team's doing well and the team's winning games, every player's going to get their fair share of the points. If that's not the case, the numbers aren't going to be as good, and we're not going to win games."

Curiously, the home-road differential has been the case throughout Jokinen's tenure with Calgary.

Last season, after being acquired from the Phoenix Coyotes along with a third-round draft choice for Matthew Lombardi, Brandon Prust and a first-rounder, Jokinen was a force on the road, with 11 points (7-4-11) in a dozen road games, but no goals and only three points in seven home outings.

He's almost at his wit's end as to why.

"I wish I would have a reason," he said. "I used to be totally opposite. I used score 25 goals, over a point-per-game at home, and be a lot higher (at home) than on the road. You'd get the better matchups against you.

"I don't know why. This year, I feel like I've been hitting posts every time at home, but some of those pucks are going in on the road."

Jokinen doesn't buy any theories of feeling stressed about playing at home or distracted, but has tried to make home games more of a road experience.

"Yes. I've tried everything," he said. "Most of the time when things go well, you try to do things the same.

"Bottom line is, we've got to be better at home. Well, on the road, too. Every game now is huge."

The Flames need Jokinen to make the most of the next chance Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers.

Their playoff hopes are becoming tenuous, so impact from the club's highest paid centre has become critical, at home and on the road.

He needs to make the most of those opportunities, too. After all, he's due to be an unrestricted free agent.

GM Darryl Sutter said recently he wanted to re-sign Jokinen. Considering the organization's lack of depth up the middle, it may be mandatory, albeit at the right price.

For his part, Jokinen says he wants to remain, but doesn't want to discuss the matter deeply.

"Right now, all that matters is getting a win (next game)," Jokinen said.

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA


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