BANFF, ALTA. - There should be no more delays in Jarome Iginla’s final stretch to 500 goals.
After more than two weeks spent either resting or doing some light skating by himself or the other injured brigade members due to his bad back, the Calgary Flames captain was at full blast in Tuesday’s practice in Banff.
Barring an unforeseen issue, Iginla is set to play in Saturday’s season-opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“I’ve been feeling really good,” Iginla said.
“We definitely took more time to make sure (it’s 100%) and everything’s been really positive. Hopefully, it’s just a one-off and not an issue down the road.
“Talking to the medical staff and trainers, they don’t think it should be.”
Most importantly, the Flames need their star right winger to boost hopes of being a playoff team after two unsuccessful years.
Iginla is also chasing a huge personal goal.
He needs 16 goals to become the 42nd player in NHL history to net 500 regular-season tallies in a career.
Reaching milestones is hardly anything new to the franchise’s all-time leader in goals and points, but Iginla admitted this would be different.
“It’s hard during your career to pause and appreciate things at the time, but that would be one to do it,” Iginla said.
“When I started out, I can’t say I was sitting there thinking I’d get to 500. Hopefully, I do get it. It’s still a ways to go, and God willing I’ll be healthy and get it.
“It would be special, not only to score 500, but it means I’ve been able to play that long and have a lot of fun.
“I hope to get to it and keep going. Hopefully, I’ll score a lot more.”
At age 34, and having netted 30 or more goals in each of the last 10 seasons, Iginla may have enough left in the tank to hit the 600-goal mark.
But first things first.
By hitting 500 he’d become just the fifth player in franchise history to reach that milestone (Brett Hull, Joe Nieuwendyk, Joe Mullen and Lanny McDonald are the others), and only the second to do it in Flames silks (McDonald).
Iginla would be alone in scoring all 500 goals with the franchise.
“I’m extremely blessed for a lot of reasons,” said Iginla, who is currently tied With Darryl Sittler on the all-time list and will surpass Brian Bellows, Norm Ullman, Jean Ratelle and Glenn Anderson before hitting the milestone.
“I’ve been healthy enough to play this long. I’ve had the opportunity to be in a scoring position, played with some great passers and players, and great goal scorers.”
Iginla is always quick to defer praise, and credits some of his set-up men — Craig Conroy, Kristian Huselius, Daymond Langkow and Alex Tanguay quickly come to mind — but also credits Theoren Fleury for mentoring him.
“I got to see early in my career his drive and tenacity, how he competed. I was lucky to see that,” Iginla said.
As amazing as it seems, Iginla can quickly rattle off all kinds of memories about the key and milestone goals in his career.
Naturally, the first is a big memory, but that doesn’t count in this chase since it was a playoff game in the spring of 1996.
However, his memory of the first regular-season tally from the fall of 1996 is in there, too.
So are several others, such as both times he hit 50 in a season, the tally which put him tops on the Flames all-time list and the century marks.
Then again, he has them all on video, an idea given to him at the start of his career.
“It’s good to watch when you go through tough streaks, to see what you were doing right when you were scoring,” he said.
“It’s also to look back on it with your kids. I’ve been fortunate, thanks to the video guys, to have them.
“It’s easier to remember them, too.”