Iggy unglued

TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 4:11 PM ET


 Jarome Iginla is once again proving that he's game in these NHL playoffs.

 Not a big surprise from the league's best power forward.

 OK, so his performance can be considered sub-standard through the first two games of this series.

 Especially in Game 2, when only Robyn Regehr boasted more ice time for the Flames. In his 25:36 minutes, Iginla was essentially a non-factor on the afternoon, failing to register a shot on net and finishing with a minus-1 rating against the Detroit Red Wings.

 That is until the final minute, when he checked into Round 2 by squaring off with Derian Hatcher.

 With just 26 seconds remaining in Saturday's tilt -- one from which the Flames needed desperately to take some sort of positive -- he dropped the gloves with Hatcher and promptly served up a flurry of fists on the giant defenceman.

 Although he declared post-game it had nothing to do with team nor personal frustration against the Red Wings, consider it a spark for his own personal game.

 After all, Iginla sparked his outstanding contribution in the second half of the first round with a similar discharge of emotion against Canucks rearguard Mattias Ohlund.

 With 12 seconds left in Game 3 and the Flames losing the contest 2-1, Iginla squared off with Ohlund and went toe-to-toe with the physical blueliner. It came after three games of being frustrated by Ohlund, among the most underrated own-zone d-men in the league.

 Ohlund got the better of Iginla time and time again to effectively prevent the Flames captain from taking complete charge of the series.

 Now, through two games of this round, Hatcher is effectively doing the same job on Iginla.

 But with the fight, Iginla has served notice he's not going to be man-handled for the rest of this series, that he'll create more room for himself in the Wings' zone as the scene shifts to Calgary and that he most certainly will be an offensive force in Games 3, 4, 5 and whatever contests follow.

 At the very least, it's proving Iginla knows it takes persistence to become a playoff performer. He can't live off his incredible Game 7 against Vancouver alone. But, no doubt, he can feed off it to further his rising status in the post-season.

 "Iggy's a warrior," said Flames assistant coach Rich Preston. "He's had a real battle going with Hatcher and he had the battle with Ohlund in the first series. No matter how big you are, Hatcher's one of the tougher defenceman in the league. And he's been that way for years."

 So Iginla will need to push even more physically and mentally.

 And not just because it gets harder as the playoffs move forward because Hatcher is a more dynamic defenceman than Ohlund in many ways.

 The Wings defenceman has survived more playoff battles and has a Stanley Cup ring on his finger, giving him a bevy of experience from which to draw.

 Simply put, he'll be less of a pushover than Ohlund, who wasn't the same in thwarting Iginla after the Game 3 fight.

 As well, Hatcher is getting more help than Ohlund could have ever hoped from his fellow Canucks.

 Chris Chelios is a workhorse out there alongside Hatcher. Then the Wings can throw a different look at Iginla with Nicklas Lidstrom, who doesn't have Hatcher's physical presence but is quick and smart with the puck and his defensive positioning.

 "That's the thing with Detroit," Preston said. "If they don't have Hatcher out there with Chelios, then they're going to have Lidstrom with (Mathieu) Schneider. A different look but all four are darn good defencemen."

 It's should be quite enough for Iginla to handle but he's certainly up against game company.

 This will be the true test of playoff hockey for Iginla.

 Yet something tells us he'll pass with flying colours.


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