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Flames duo hope November ignites offense

Tuesday, 11.01.2011 / 5:47 PM / NHL Insider

By Aaron Vickers - NHL.com Correspondent

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Flames duo hope November ignites offense
A slow start for Jarome Iginla is really nothing new, but the Flames are hoping a new month will see improved offensive production from both their captain and his linemate, Brendan Morrison. 
You can forgive Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla if he doesn’t mind seeing the calendar turn from October to November.

He’s never been a big fan of the month.

Traditionally a slow starter, Iginla -- who has just 2 goals through the club’s first nine games this season -- is hoping that a new month brings increased offense for himself and the Flames.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't," said Iginla, who also has 2 assists. "I wouldn't say it’s been a great start to the season. I haven’t felt great in too many games. I’ve been through it before and have been through different games and different stretches. Sometimes you get your hot stretches early and sometimes you get your hot stretches late and sometimes the opposite of that is the cold month."

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Many are pointing to the fact Iginla didn't suit up for a single preseason game and missed camp due to a back injury as a reason for his slow start. The Edmonton, Alberta native wasn’t willing to use soreness or a lack of the tune-up series as an excuse.

"After the first few games, really my back hasn’t been an issue, thankfully, and it feels as good as it felt at the end of last year," Iginla said.

So if lingering issues with his back or missing preseason action isn’t what is ailing the former Rocket Richard and Art Ross Trophy winner, what has Iginla slumping?

"I don't know why that is," said Iginla, who had just 2 goals through October a season ago before finishing the year with 43 tallies. "I'd say overall I probably feel my play gets better as the season goes on. I'd love it if it was from day one and I'd love to be consistent all the time and score every game but unfortunately that’s not the case and I’ve got to keep working and working through it and try and help the team."

One reason could be Brendan Morrison, his center, who is pointless in five games this season. Morrison, like Iginla, missed both training camp and the preseason schedule after recovering from knee surgery.

"I'm not quite where I want to be," Morrison said. "Obviously my production hasn’t been there at all yet. We understand we have to produce here if we want to win consistently and that’s what we’re trying to do."

Calgary coach Brent Sutter isn’t waving red flags as a result of the production -- or lack thereof -- from his top line. At least not yet.

"To be quite honest it hasn’t been something I've sat around and been really concerned about," Sutter said. "They know the difference between when they're not playing well and are playing well. They're pros. They have been in this League for a while and they know how it works. It's confidence and trust in those guys."

Despite just 3 combined goals this season from their top unit of Iginla, Morrison and Alex Tanguay, the Flames have started the year 4-4-1. Unexpected contributors such as rookie Roman Horak (5 points) mixed in with some veteran performances from Olli Jokinen (7 points) and Rene Bourque (5 goals) as well as the spectacular play of Miikka Kiprusoff have Calgary functioning at .500.

"The positive is we’ve found ways to win a couple games here and it has bought us some time to get going," said Morrison, who had 43 points in 66 games last season.

Time may have been the only thing needed to ignite Iginla and Morrison. Iginla has produced at a point-per-game or better rate in November during each of his last six seasons, including a 13-goal, 20-point month in 2009-10.

"I'm confident and positive it’s going to improve, and I am excited that for whatever reason I always like the start of new months and thinking it’s going to be better and different,” Iginla said.

A new month and a fresh start for both Morrison and Iginla, one that both hope can ignite two key members of the Flames.
Quote of the Day

When we started our journey we made a commitment to our fans to be relevant and to see the Chicago Blackhawks become the best professional hockey organization. There are not two finer symbols of that than Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. The commitment we have made to these incredible young men is equal to the commitment they have made to our team, our fans, our entire organization and the city of Chicago.

— Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz on signing Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to contract extensions