CALGARY - Knowing the questions were coming his way, Jarome Iginla did his research.
Admittedly, his start has been rough this NHL season.
He’s well aware his minus-10 rating and paltry five goals through the first 17 games is not up to anyone’s standards of a top player, especially his own.
But it’s not as bad as last year, and the Calgary Flames captain had statistical evidence at the ready as he faced a throng of media members Thursday after practice at the Saddledome.
“I actually feel better than I did last year,” Iginla said when asked if it seems harder to snap out of his traditional early-season slump this time around.
“I was looking at my game logs last year, and I think I was minus-6 last year with three goals. I think I had one or two more assists.”
So far this season, Iginla has five goals and nine points to go with his awful plus/minus rating.
Through 17 games last year, Iginla had three goals, 10 points and was a minus-7.
“I think I had a harder (start) last year because (the slump) went through the previous year, too. I had a tough finish the year before,” Iginla said.
“I believe I’m going to turn it around, and I believe our team’s going to turn it around ... I’m going to try to be better (Friday night).”
That’s when Iginla and the Flames host the Chicago Blackhawks, who aren’t exactly easy opponents in the quest to turn personal and team fortunes around.
“I know I have to be better — I have to play better,” Iginla said. “Minus-10 is a number of things. I think that it’s been, defensively, some breakdowns that I could be smarter on. It’s also a reflection of not producing enough offence. It wouldn’t be so obvious if you are scoring some.
“It’s not my first focus to improve on. I’ve got to improve my play and that will come. I’ve definitely got to be better.”
A good start would be getting the better of whichever line he faces Friday night.
A big reason for the brutal plus/minus rating so far is other teams’ scoring lines — ones that Iginla and the top line always play against — are spending more time in the Flames’ zone than their own.
“I think we’re definitely up for a nightly challenge. Usually, we’re playing against one of the two scoring lines on the other side. We’re not beating them enough,” Iginla said.
“We’re getting outplayed five-on-five as a line. You have to try to beat the line.
“(Friday night), it will be either (Jonathan) Toews or (Patrick) Kane.”
Flames head coach Brent Sutter had a chat with his captain on the ice before practice Thursday, and the two have undoubtedly met in private as well as they attempt to work him out of the slump.
Iginla says he’s been guilty of thinking too much on parts of the defensive and offensive gameplans.
“Brent’s been talking to me — I’m just going to skate, go to the net, get back to just simplifying a little bit and not thinking as much,” Iginla said.
“Usually, you just need a spark to really get back in that rhythm and groove.”
That spark came in Game 18 last season when Iginla fired home his first hat-trick of the season, including the game-winner in a huge victory at home.
Interestingly enough, the Friday night tilt is this year’s Game 18, and like Friday night, the opposition in Game 18 last fall were the Blackhawks.
Iginla went on to score 43 goals, 43 assists and 86 points on the year, earning his way back to an even plus-minus rating.
So he has a recent experience to draw on during his current struggles.
“It’s not just last year — I’m going to draw on the last 13 years,” said the 34-year-old captain.
“There are tough stretches, and there are stretches where it feels like everything is rolling, you come to the game and you feel great, all the pucks are coming through to you and they go in.
“I’m not drawing on just one little stretch. I’m going to draw on my whole career and believe I’m going to turn it.”