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Iginla A Key Addition For Avalanche

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

When it comes to what Jarome Iginla brings to a hockey team, toughness, leadership and scoring are often some of the characteristics that are associated with the 17-year NHL veteran.

And that last trait, scoring, is one the Avalanche and its fans are all too familiar with.

Jarome Iginla

Iginla is 50th all time in league history with 1,167 career points and 78 of them (37 goals and 41 assists) have come in 93 career games against Colorado, the club that he has scored the second most against. Only the Edmonton Oilers have had to deal with Iginla's wrath more as the right wing has scored 86 points (36 goals and 50 assists) in 91 games against his hometown team.

It's safe to say the Avs are glad he is now on their side.

"Bringing in Iggy for our lineup, a big power forward on the right side, leadership, proven winner, and he got [30] goals last year for Boston," said Avalanche executive vice president of hockey operations Joe Sakic this summer. "He might not be in his prime, but he still has a lot."

Iginla still has plenty to give and it comes from his terrific offseason-training regimen. He has gained a reputation around the league of being a fitness fanatic and works hard each summer to keep up with a game that seems to get faster every year.

He's done a good job of keeping up.

Last season with the Presidents' Trophy-winning Boston Bruins, Iginla was tied for the team lead with 30 goals and finished third on the club in scoring with 61 points. It marked the 12th consecutive full season that Iginla had scored at least 30 goals.

Despite now being the oldest member of the Avalanche at age 37, Iginla hasn't slowed down in the scoring department and is not anticipating doing so.

"I don’t come with expecting to do less," Iginla said after signing a three-year contract with Colorado on July 1. "I expect to work hard and expect the same for myself. Physically, thankfully I feel really good and have been healthy. I don’t feel like I have all this wear and tear and hard to move or anything like that. I work out the same way and try to push that…I expect to push myself and be really good for the team."

Still one of the game's best two-way players, Iginla has continued to have success on the defensive side of the puck. Last season, he recorded 47 penalty minutes (25 of which came from fights) and finished with a plus-34 plus/minus rating.

His fitness level and strong two-way ability will be a good fit for a Colorado team that is gaining a reputation for its speed and offensive attack.

The exact spot where Iginla will fit into the Avs' lineup probably won't be known until closer to the start of the season, but it is likely that he'll play a top-six role along with Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, Ryan O'Reilly and his good-friend and former Calgary teammate Alex Tanguay.

"Colorado fit perfectly, it has those things, and I believe the team is only getting better and already is a very, very good team," Iginla said. "The guys, from playing against them and watching them, the different players that they have from the goaltender [Semyon] Varlamov to MacKinnon, Landeskog, O’Reilly and Duchene, Tangs, it’s a dynamic group. I think that they work hard and they’re committed."

Two of the areas that Sakic and the rest of the Avalanche front office targeted this offseason were adding veteran depth and leadership, and Iginla fit both of the team's wants. He's been through the gauntlet of the regular season plenty of times and made it all the way to Game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Final—be it in a losing effort with the Calgary Flames, a team he captained for nine seasons.

As a free agent this past summer, Iginla could have signed with any team in the league but chose the up-and-coming Avalanche as the club he wanted to help get back to the Stanley Cup in the near future.

"He wants to try and win a Stanley Cup. I know that," Sakic said of Iginla, a former linemate of his from the 2002 Olympics with Team Canada. "He believes in the group we have, and to be a part of this group. Not just for a one-year run, but for a three-year run and have that opportunity.

"It shows a lot of trust on his part in feeling that, that is our goal (the Stanley Cup), and he wants to be a part of that and believes strongly that he has a chance with this group."

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