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Oilers have respect for Iginla

Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk stops Flames forward Jarome Iginla at Rexall Place in Edmonton,...

Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk stops Flames forward Jarome Iginla at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alta., March 16, 2012. (DAN RIEDLHUBER/Reuters)

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:12 AM ET

EDMONTON - Considering how the Calgary Flames are regarded in Edmonton, and how much Jarome Iginla means to that club, it’s somewhat surprising the veteran winger doesn’t elicit a similar disdain.

However, it’s tough even for Edmonton Oilers fans to spew much venom in Iginla’s direction, considering he’s a local product and one of the classiest players in the league.

The Flames captain garners a certain respect in town, not usually associated with those who ply their trade 300 kilometers south. And it’s little surprise Iginla has been having another strong campaign.

“This is a guy that is using his experience, as a player like that should, and he plays a significant role on his team as a captain,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. “I think is just shows his level of professionalism and the way he can navigate a career, never mind a season. The way he’s playing and the way he’s played before, I don’t think his career will be over any time soon.”

Iginla recently reached the 30-goal plateau for 11th time in his career. He’s still lethal around the net with a shot as good as any in the league.

“It’s really good, he’s scored a few on me in the short time I’ve been around,” said Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk. “It’s heavy, he’s got a heavy shot. He always puts himself in good position to get it off and get it off hard. There’s no secret why he’s had 11 consecutive 30-plus goal seasons. He’s a dangerous guy to play against. He’s one of those guys that you have to key on. He’s their leader and he’s their best player and we always have to do our best to shut him down.”

MAKING AN IMPRESSION

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is not surprised at the impact Sven Baertschi is making since being an emergency call-up from junior.

The Flames first-round pick — 11th overall — in last summer’s NHL entry draft had three goals in four games heading into Friday’s contest against the Oilers.

“It’s great to see what he’s been doing,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “I got to play against him a couple of times where he was playing for Portland and I got to play on his line during the top prospects game. He’s a very talented and smart player.”

Baertschi is currently up from the Portland Winter Hawks on an emergency basis for the Flames. He’s only eligible to play in nine games for the team and must be sent back to junior once the Flames are able to activate a forward off the injury list.

TURNING UP THE HEAT

It’s not as if the rivalry needed any added motivation.

But if the Oilers and Flames weren’t up for facing each other before Cory Sarich took a run at Taylor Hall, then the hit definitely got everyone’s attention.

The Flames defenceman took a run at Hall as he was going to play the puck along the boards and ended up elbowing the Oilers winger in the head as lost his footing on the play.

Hall lay on the ice for a while before skating off on his own.

As is the policy, however, when a player is hit to the head, Hall had to make his way to the dressing room for further evaluation and did not return to the contest.

Sarich made his presence felt throughout the game, drilling Ryan Jones from behind later in the first perod, then stepping into Ales Hemsky in the neutral zone in the second.

PAIN IN THE BACK

The Oilers could have used Ben Eager in Friday’s emotional contest against the Flames.

However, the Oilers winger had to sit out due to back spasms, which he suffered in practice earlier this week.

“It was a little surprising, I’m kind of having a rough go with things here right now,” Eager said. “I was feeling good, I was feeling great the night after we got back from our road trip. I worked out, I skated, felt great to start the skate and out of nowhere it kind of crippled me really.”

Eager had to leave practice Tuesday and sat out Wednesday’s encounter against the Columbus Blue Jackets. He hopes to be back Sunday against the Phoenix Coyotes.

“I just had to let it settle down for a couple of days,” he said. “I actually felt pretty good this morning. I’ll get a workout in (Friday), and skate again (Saturday) and hopefully I’ll be good by Sunday.”

Eager, who has seven goals and four assists for the Oilers this season, doesn’t have a previous history of back issues.

“I happened once in Minnesota, but my back was a little sore when we went into Minnesota, so it wasn’t all the surprising,” he said. “I had been doing some things to keep my back loose and I haven’t had any back pain until that day.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

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