SUN Hockey Pool

Flames putting fourth great effort

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:06 AM ET

CALGARY - The way Tim Jackman and Tom Kostopoulos have been playing of late, a centre for them would just be a third wheel.

So, maybe it’s a good thing the Calgary Flames wingers haven’t had a regular man in the middle for the past couple of games.

With Flames head coach Brent Sutter opting to go with a lineup of 11 forwards and seven defencemen, Jackman and Kostopoulos — two-thirds of the team’s fourth line — have seen a revolving door spit out centres for them to skate with.

“Sometimes, we don’t know who’s going out with us,” Jackman said with a laugh. “It’s been fun. All the centres we have, they have a different style to their game. We just try to stick to our game, stay simple, and let the new centre — whichever one we have — make the decisions with the puck.

“It’s worked really well. It doesn’t matter. We don’t ask who’s going out with us. As long as TK and I are going together, we’re excited.”

Added Kostopoulos: “It’s been a different lineup with seven defencemen and 11 forwards, and him putting Jackman and I with whatever centre’s rested the most. But whoever we’re with, we try to work hard and put pucks to the net.

“We’ve been doing that the last few games, but we haven’t been able to get one in. (Friday night) was nice to put some in.”

Not only have they skated with the trio of centres dressed for those games — Olli Jokinen, Brendan Morrison and Roman Horak — but Jackman and Kostopoulos have been sent on the ice with the likes of David Moss, Rene Bourque, Alex Tanguay and even Jarome Iginla.

“Yeah, we don’t know who’ll be with them either,” Morrison chuckled. “It’s been good, though. Guys are staying sharp on the bench to get through it and helping each other out.”

What’s interesting is how Jackman and Kostopoulos have contributed.

Kostopoulos opened the scoring in Friday’s 3-1 win over the St. Louis Blues, while Jackman set up two goals.

Considering that Calgary’s top line of Morrison, Tanguay and Iginla have been MIA of late, the help is welcomed.

“They’re a big part of this hockey team,” stated head coach Brent Sutter. “The guys are extremely hard workers, grind the game out, finish checks. They got a big goal in a game when it wasn’t one of our best games, but the two of them were playing well.”

The best part for the Flames is their affect on the game goes well beyond goals and assists.

“I don’t think (Sutter) looks at us for goals. Anything we get is a bonus,” Kostopoulos said. “But he wants us to be hard to play against, win the battle against the other team’s fourth line and try to be physical on their defencemen.”

Exactly what the Flames have seen, which wasn’t the case a few games into the season when Kostopoulos was a healthy scratch for one night and Jackman was struggling.

“For the last few games, we’ve found our identity again,” Jackman said. “We’ve created good chances, played some good games. I think it’s all coming together.”


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