SUN Hockey Pool

Flames' reinforcements needed

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:04 AM ET

It’s official: Jarome Iginla is back on form.

The numbers say it. So does his play.

Still, a monstrous question remains.

Will it be enough to spark the Flames to climb from 15th in the Western Conference into a playoff spot?

As the Flames ready to resume action Monday at home to the Columbus Blue Jackets, the captain is riding a seven-game point streak in which he’s collected three goals and nine points. Sure, it doesn’t rival Sidney Crosby’s run — or even the sprees we’ve witnessed from Iginla in past years — but it’s a huge improvement from the way things went down the stretch last season and the first six weeks of this campaign.

Since his dreadful outing in Phoenix Nov. 12 — no points, no shots, minus-4, in a 5-4 loss to the Coyotes — Iginla has netted 10 goals and nine assists in 15 outings.

That’s what Flames fans have come to expect from the face of the franchise and all-time leading scorer.

To be quite honest, that’s what Flames fans have been treated to for much of his illustrious career.

“I’m feeling better. I have been feeling better for a while,” Iginla said after Friday night’s clash in Anaheim, a 3-2 shootout loss the Flames truly deserved to win. “I’m feeling more confident again. I guess more normal.”

His performance goes beyond the goals and assists, too.

After spending too much time standing still or on the perimeter of the action through the first six weeks, Iginla has been become more assertive.

Basically, he’s doing what he can to use the bull force which made him such a dominating player in past seasons.

It would be hard to be that player every night through an 82-game season, but even at age 33, Iginla still has the ability — and fitness level — to do it often enough to continue being the star he’s worked to become through his career.

If he keeps it up, Iginla will become a rare player to reach the 30-goal mark for a 10th consecutive season.

As much as the Flames faithful are thrilled to see that from the leader, the desire is even greater for the team to turn its fortunes, go on a few winning streaks and climb back into the playoff picture.

Right now, there’s no guarantee of it happening.

Certainly, the Flames have the goaltending capable of making that plausible. Not only has starter Miikka Kiprusoff been strong, but backup Henrik Karlsson has been good enough to deserve an even better fate than his 2-1-2 record suggests.

The defence corps isn’t as loaded as it appeared heading into last season, but it should have the necessary pieces to at least be a playoff contender.

Which brings into focus the rest of the forward brigade.

Iginla has lugged a burden of carrying this team seemingly by himself for so many seasons, but the battle against Father Time is making it more difficult for him to go it alone.

It’s now up to the rest of the crew to do their share, and on a more consistent basis.

Alex Tanguay has delivered a bounce-back season to make his signing a coup, but he’s in a minority, along with fellow veteran Brendan Morrison.

Olli Jokinen is coming off his best game of the season and scored in consecutive games, but four goals isn’t enough.

Rene Bourque has the speed, size and scoring touch to impact every game, but doesn’t deliver often enough. His good friend Curtis Glencross may not have the same offensive potential, but can be a factor in his role when he gets motoring. He, too, is hot and cold.

Then you have the likes of Matt Stajan, one goal and a healthy scratch last game, Niklas Hagman, David Moss and Mikael Backlund.

The Flames need more from them.

“I think I’ve skated better the last couple of games. That’s a big part of my game, skating, and I got a lot of chances (Friday). Do things the right way, at the end of the day, you’ll be rewarded,” Jokinen said. “It’s nice when you can chip in and score once in a while, but numbers are not the first thing in my mind.

“If I play the way our coaches want me to play, I help the team, even if I don’t score.

“There’s a certain way they want us to play, and when we’ve been doing that, we get the results.

“At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who scores the goals.”

Yes it does.

It can’t just be Iginla on a consistent basis.

Now that the captain is going at capacity, or darn close, it’s critical the rest join with him.


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