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Decade of waiting

by Torie Peterson / Calgary Flames

A day before Olli Jokinen boarded a plane to head off to his first playoff game in his decade-long career, everyone wanted to know how the Finn was feeling.

“It feels good. It’s good to get this playoff feeling. We’ve been waiting now for a couple of days and everybody’s going to be fresh so it’ll be good to get started,” was his response before he moved the conversation over to the team.

“You just want to do all the little things right and it doesn’t matter whose scoring goals or getting points. All that matters is to score one more than they do and get the win. That’s all we’re worried about right now. We just have to prepare ourselves for Game 1 first and that’s all. We can’t worry about the second game, third game or fourth game. All we can worry about is Thursday and getting a win.”

Calgary Flames' Olli Jokinen of Finland, chats with his teammates during hockey practice in Calgary, Tuesday, April 14, 2009. The Calgary Flames will face the Chicago Blackhawks in game one of the NHL Western Conference quarterfinal playoff series in Chicago on Thursday. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Jeff McIntosh) 

He delved a bit more into his own view of the playoffs, albeit reluctantly, saying that performing well in his first postseason outing is a goal he has for himself.

“Yeah, kind of,” he replied.

“In the big picture it’s a team game and you know, I try to do whatever I can with the team concept and help the team to win. That’s all that matters at this point of the year.”

The 30-year-old has been impressive since joining the Flames on Mar. 4, notching eight goals in his first six games and 15 points overall. His offensive output has been criticized of late however as he’s gone 13 games without a goal.

After being questioned about his lack of offensive production last week, head coach Mike Keenan was quick to defend his centreman, saying he was one of the most consistent players on the squad in recent weeks. Jokinen smiled when asked about the compliment but refused to give himself any credit.

“I feel that could play better. If you play a lot of minutes it’s your job to do all the little things right and the goals will come,” he said.

An area of particular concern is the struggling power play. Jokinen, a mainstay on the man-advantage unit, said the team was far more confident in their special teams play than they were in the regular season.

“It’s a new season. We all start in the same position; everybody’s power play is at 0% now. We’ve been working on it for the past couple of days. I think we’ve been doing a pretty good job with it in practice. We’re shooting the puck a lot more and we’ve put guys in the front of the net so we just got to keep doing that in the games. Good things will happen.”

Keenan was questioned about Jokinen’s lack of postseason experience after practice on Tuesday but that wasn’t something concerning the head coach at all.

“Olli’s played in the Olympics, it doesn’t get any bigger in terms of the stage you play on and the pressures of a big stage. If you compare the Olympic competition to the Stanley Cup Finals, they’re probably pretty comparable. Many series - short series - and quite a bit of attention obviously, world-wide attention.”

He went on to describe what he expects from all of his top line players, experienced or not, as they ride into the Windy City.

“The consistent high-level players embrace opportunity of the challenge of competing with the best athletes in the game. That’s expected of them. I think they’re prepared, in their own minds, to elevate their games. They have to elevate their games if we’re going to be successful.”

Jokinen mirrored this view, not showing any signs of pre-game jitters.

“You want to bring your best every night. It’s a matter of winning and all we have to focus on is getting the first win on Thursday. That’s all that matters now. As a player you want to bring your best every single day and that’s why we’re here.”

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