Flames captain showin' fire

Jarome Iginla's physical play against the Rangers was noticed by his Flames teammates. (Mike...

Jarome Iginla's physical play against the Rangers was noticed by his Flames teammates. (Mike Drew/QMI Agency)

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:28 AM ET

CALGARY - Jarome Iginla’s reaction was about sending a message to New York Rangers forward Ryan Callahan.

It also made a point to the rest of the Calgary Flames.

Early in the first period of the Flames’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Rangers Thursday night, Iginla took offence to Callahan pushing him into what players refer to as the turnbuckle of the glass.

The Calgary captain proceeded to shove his New York counterpart while firing back a few choice words and showing fire in his eyes.

It was noticed by his Flames teammates.

“We all could feel the urgency. It’s something we didn’t have the first couple of games,” winger Tim Jackman said of Iginla’s response.

The night ended up in defeat, albeit with a point in the standings, but it set a tone the club has been looking for since the season began.

One of the mantras head coach Brent Sutter has tried to instil in the Flames since he arrived is a “wolfpack mentality.”

Part of that is being assertive and aggressive, and a big key in those regards is being a physical team.

Against the Rangers, the Flames were finally at the level of expectation with their physical play.

The official scoresheet said the Flames recorded a season-high 25 hits against the Rangers, and even though statistical sheets can sometimes be taken with a grain of salt, there can be no denying they did a better job of being a physical squad.

“Those first couple of games, it wasn’t our identity. We’re starting to find our identity again,” said Jackman, who was part of the hit parade.

This edition of the Flames isn’t like the 2004 playoff squad, which pretty much beat teams into submission with a relentless forecheck, but does have enough players in that mould to be able to make a point physically.

It’s something they did against the Rangers and something they’ll look to do when they face the Nashville Predators Saturday afternoon (2 p.m., Sportsnet, Sportsnet 960) at the Saddledome.

The template has been started.

“I’m a big believer body checks are contagious,” winger Tom Kostopoulos said. “If Jackman goes out there and throws a big hit, somebody else will want to. Then it goes down the lineup.”

Which begs the question, what took so long?

In their first five games, the Flames were not showing a part of their game, even though it’s as basic as shooting and skating.

“It’s hard work, and sometimes, it’s one of those things you forget about,” Kostopoulos said.

“It’s a conscious thing you have to think about, how you’re going to pressure teams, get in there fast and finish checks.

“But the harder you work at it, the more it becomes a habit.”

Jackman is a perfect example of that theory.

The big winger was limited to just one pre-season game because of injury and was admittedly thinking he’d build on his 10-goal 2010-11 season.

However, a few sub-par outings and a foolish penalty early in Tuesday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers resulted in him taking stock of what he had to do.

“After that penalty, I thought I had some pretty good shifts and got some momentum going,” said Jackman, who was very noticeable in the Rangers clash.

“It just took me a slap in the face to figure out what gives me success.”


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