UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Jarome Iginla has been teased about the fact he doesn't shy away from empty-net goals.
But with just a pair to check off his list in the quest for 500 career NHL counters, he's not about to change his philosophy just so he can say his milestone marker was a pretty one.
If the Calgary Flames captain finds himself sitting at 499 and staring at an empty cage in front of him, he's not about to pass the puck.
"I don't have too much pride for that. I'll shoot that in. I'll shoot it in if I get a chance, absolutely," Iginla said with a laugh in the depths of the Nassau Coliseum following practice Wednesday afternoon.
"I know over the years you hear some guys don't like to score them or don't feel as good about them. I feel fine. I'd be happy to get them any way I could. Those mean you're winning the game, too, so that's a good thing."
Averaging a little less than two empty-netters per season, Iginla has never scored more than four into the unmanned goal.
But he has racked up 25 during his 15 NHL seasons.
"I'll take 'em," Iginla said. "Yeah, I'll take 'em."
Scoring goal No. 498 in Columbus during a 2-1 shootout victory Tuesday night over the host Blue Jackets, Iginla is two away from becoming the 42nd player to make it to 500.
As nice as it would be to celebrate that milestone in front of his fans at the Saddledome, he's eager to get it over with as soon as possible.
Playing Thursday on the road against the New York Islanders, Friday in Ottawa against the Senators and then moving on to Nashville, Washington and Boston for three more contests against the Predators, the Capitals and the Bruins, it would take a serious slump for Iginla to arrive home without that souvenir puck.
And he's fine with that, too.
"I'm just happy — I'm thankful to be close. I'd love to get it. I'm not gonna be picky about whether it's at home or on the road or anything like that. I just would love to get it," said Iginla, whose team is also on a season-high winning streak of four games and looking to crack the top eight in the Western Conference for the first time this year.
"I just want to keep winning games. This is fun — we're moving up the standings, we're all feeling good about ourselves and gaining more confidence. That's where the focus is.
"Definitely find it easier not thinking about (the 500 goals) as opposed to going into each shot thinking, 'Oh, it might go in here.' All you do is freeze up a little bit. It's nice to have the focus and the energy that we have as a team and just try to keep climbing."
His commitment to the other areas of the ice have helped the team thrive, too.
A great goal-saving backcheck in Vancouver during a 3-1 win over the Canucks before Christmas was just one example of Iginla's improved defensive play.
"Those things go unnoticed in games, but they don't go unnoticed on my part," said Flames head coach Brent Sutter. "Jarome has dug in that way. He's been more engaged in that. Personally, it's helped his game out. He's playing a 200-foot game now. He's understanding the importance of doing it that way, yet it's not taking away any of his creativity with the puck."
While scoring nine goals and 20 points in the last 18 games, he's turned his plus/minus rating around in the process. He was minus-12 through the first 19 games but is a plus-7 over the past 18.
"Jarome's taking pride in that (defence), and yet he's contributing offensively," Sutter said. "He's done a good job of it."
On Twitter: @SUNMacfarlane