Jokinen steps up

Flames forward Olli Jokinen reacts after missing his shot in the shootout against the San Jose...

Flames forward Olli Jokinen reacts after missing his shot in the shootout against the San Jose Sharks in Calgary on Feb. 25, 2011. (TODD KOROL/Reuters)

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:09 PM ET

SAN JOSE — Olli Jokinen a two-way centre?

Is that what the Calgary Flames were expecting when he was acquired?

That’s what he’s become, and although the fans may have been hoping for more, the Flames are thankful these days.

Consider the impact of all the developments among Calgary’s centres. When Craig Conroy was put on waivers and opted to retire, the Flames believed they still had enough depth down the middle.

However, with Brendan Morrison (knee) and David Moss (ankle) joining Daymond Langkow (neck) on the sidelines, the Flames have been left with an under-manned crew.

Over the last while, Jokinen has taken the lion’s share of the ice time, among a corps that’s included Matt Stajan, converted winger Curtis Glencross and rookie Mikael Backlund.

Jokinen has been counted on to face the top opposing centres, no easy task in the past week with games against Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf, Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar and San Jose’s Joe Thornton.

The Jokinen Calgary Flames fans expected to see when he arrived the first time, at the 2009 trade deadline, was supposed to simply inject offence alongside Jarome Iginla.

“I think everybody was saying it was all offence, offence, offence, but if you look at my numbers, the first couple years after the lockout, I was a plus player, almost plus-20,” Jokinen insisted. “I averaged over 20 minutes a night, played powerplay, played penalty kill, played against the other team’s first line every night.

“I’ve been doing that the last eight years of my career, so what I’ve done this year is nothing new. It’s not like it’s a totally new position for me to play against other team’s top players.

“In this league, you’ve got to be a good two-way player.”

Still, he’ll admit being a different player.

“Maybe my mind set has changed a little bit the last two years. Maybe before I was thinking, ‘OK, I’ve got to get to 30 goals. I’ve got to get a point-per-game.’ Now, I don’t really care if I score or get points. All that matters is the team getting points,” Jokinen insisted. “I think that’s a different mind set. You don’t really want to get frustrated if you don’t score for a couple of games. We all like to score, but there are a lot of other things you can do if you don’t score. I think that’s what I’ve learned to this year, more than ever before.”

The Flames may be struggling the past couple of weeks, but this season they’ve seen a better Jokinen, although he enjoys plenty of give-and-take with the media if you ask him about it.

“I think I’ve proven the last 45 games I can still be an average player in this league. In your books, it’s probably average,” he said.

“I think the last 45 games I’ve been playing pretty good hockey. Probably my better hockey in many years. At the end of the day, it’s about the team getting in the playoffs, that’s the main goal and the only focus right now.”

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/RandySportak


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