Is this marriage on the rocks?

STEVE MACFARLANE

, Last Updated: 6:13 AM ET

Bringing a big centre in to play with Jarome Iginla was on the Calgary Flames wish list for years.

Landing Olli Jokinen at the trade deadline after numerous attempts, the on-ice marriage made in heaven seemed finally consummated.

The honeymoon, though, lasted exactly six games.

Scoring eight times and earning 10 points over his first half-dozen outings in a Flames jersey, Jokinen and Iginla -- who scored three times and added four assists in that same span -- looked like the dynamic duo dreamed up by GM Darryl Sutter as far back as when head coach Mike Keenan was still in Florida with Jokinen as his captain.

Combining for just one goal and seven points in the last seven games, things have certainly cooled off between them. Wondering whether the union might be on the rocks is a natural question given the way Keenan shuffles his lines.

According to Keenan, there will be no divorce.

"I would have, probably, a preference to play them as often as I can together, yes," Keenan said yesterday after practice at the Saddledome, where he rounded out the trio with Todd Bertuzzi.

About as committed as Keenan gets to his lines, he did add in small print that would depend on injuries, matchups and the dynamics of a game.

Jokinen admits things haven't looked great recently. The chemistry that seemed so instant in Philadelphia when Jokinen scored twice in his Flames debut, and the momentum he carried forward on that first road trip, doesn't seem to be there right now. If it is, as the linemates and coach claim, the numbers aren't backing it up at the moment.

"It takes time. If you look in the last four, five, six games, we might not be scoring goals, but if you look at the chances we've been getting, it's been two, three, four quality scoring chances a game," said Jokinen, who is confident they will turn things around soon.

"If you get a number of chances like that, pucks will go in."

With the Northwest Division race now neck-and-neck, there's little time for patience.

The pucks can't start going in soon enough.

"Obviously there's still a lot of work to do. It's been only three weeks. We've played 13 games together. Usually it takes time," said Jokinen.

"I think with that hot start we had in our first six games, expectations probably went a little bit higher."

Teased at the trade deadline for years with rumours of Jokinen coming to Calgary, those expectations were already sky high the second it was confirmed he would finally be joining the Flames.

"When you lose, everything is clouded," Keenan said of the idea the two aren't working out as planned.

Being paired with one of the NHL's best snipers, the tendency to pass rather than shoot is a mistake made more than once by players like Alex Tanguay and Kristian Huselius in recent years.

Jokinen is a perennial 30-goal scorer himself, and says he won't turn down a shot just to set up his winger.

"We can't over-pass the puck. We have to be big guys going to the net and we need to shoot the puck, otherwise we're not going to score," he said. "A lot of times a shot is the best pass."

But Jokinen can pass.

Showing his playmaking ability in Columbus, Jokinen's skills as a setup man were only unnoticed because of Iginla's inability to make them count, according to Keenan.

"Jarome I don't think has had 10 shots on net this year, and he had 10 shots at the net in Columbus. He missed six of them," said the coach. "Probably nine of 10 games, he wouldn't miss six.

"The guy that was giving him the puck -- and (Iginla) wasn't being checked when he was missing them, he was wide open -- was Olli.

"You build on things like that. The chemistry's still there. I think part of the chemistry is not being surprised that he's getting the puck as quickly and as often as he is."

Taking the heat for his misses against the Jackets, Iginla was reminded of it while discussing their chemistry.

"I think that's the most scoring chances I've had," said Iginla. "He set me up a bunch of times. I unfortunately had an off night and just missed the net. I think it's gonna keep getting better."

That's the new wish.

JOKINEN

FIRST SIX GAMES WITH IGINLA

at Flyers -- 2-0-2

at Hurricanes -- 0-0-0

at Thrashers -- 0-0-0

at Devils -- 1-0-1

at Red Wings -- 2-0-2

at Maple Leafs -- 3-2-5

TOTAL -- 8-2-10

LAST SEVEN GAMES WITH IGINLA

vs. Stars -- 0-0-0

vs. Blues -- 0-2-2

vs. Red Wings -- 0-0-0

at Penguins -- 0-0-0

at Blue Jackets -- 0-0-0

vs. Wild -- 0-1-1

vs. Sharks -- 0-0-0

TOTAL -- 0-3-3

IGINLA

FIRST SIX GAMES WITH JOKINEN

at Flyers -- 0-2-2

at Hurricanes -- 1-0-1

at Thrashers -- 1-0-1

at Devils -- 0-0-0

at Red Wings -- 0-0-0

at Maple Leafs -- 1-2-3

TOTAL -- 3-4-7

LAST SEVEN GAMES WITH IGINLA

vs. Stars -- 0-0-0

vs. Blues -- 0-2-2

vs. Red Wings -- 0-0-0

at Penguins -- 0-0-0

at Blue Jackets -- 0-0-0

vs. Wild -- 0-1-1

vs. Sharks -- 1-0-0

TOTAL -- 1-3-4

STEVE.MACFARLANE@SUNMEDIA.CA


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