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First Ovie and now Sid the Kid - Jankowski settling in with Flames against some NHL superstars

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

No gawking or double-takes, if you please.

Still, being the slightest bit star-struck is only natural, and quite understandable, actually.

On that first sighting, anyhow.

Sidney Crosby, after all, can legitimately be described as a national icon. The finest player of his generation, he has three Stanley Cup rings, two Art Ross trophies, two Hart trophies, two Rocket Rocket Richard trophies, over 1,000 points and a pair of Olympic gold medals on his resume.

Mark Jankowski can claim five official NHL starts on his.

"Obviously, it'd be really cool,'' acknowledged the Flames' freshman centre of Thursday's looming showdown against Sid the Kid and the reigning champs from Pittsburgh. "He's someone I've looked up to pretty much my whole life.

"He's the best player in the world, or one of the best players. Plays the game the right way.

"Gotta get that out of your head early. When it comes to game time, you just have to play.

"I wouldn't say he was my guy. Honestly, probably more (Evgeni) Malkin on that team. Big, skilled centre. Someone I've tried to model my game after a little bit."

After a first-ever shoulder-rub with Alexander Ovechkin on Saturday, in no time flat here comes No. 87.

Quite the double-dose of hockey royalty.

"When you're playing, you don't really notice it,'' reasoned Jankowski. "With Ovi last time … I had his jersey growing up. I saw him on the ice but I'm not thinking: 'Oh, man. It's Ovi! He was one of my favourite players growing up!'

"You don't really realize it.

"Maybe after the game you're like: 'Yeah, it was pretty cool being on the ice with him.'"

Kind of like wearing the same jersey as another living legend - Jaromir Jagr.

"I've had a few buddies texting me: 'You're playing with Jags!','' confessed Jankowski. "Or: 'You're in the same locker-room with Jagr!'

"Stuff like that."

More and more, that ooooh-I'm-in-the-NHL/pinch-me feeling is fading for the 23-year-old former first-round pick, who made everyone sit up and notice him during training camp.

"Definitely I'm feeling good,'' he reported following a brisk skate out at Winsport on Tuesday. "Last game was probably one of my better games. I feel like our line created a lot of energy, got some good O-zone shifts and we almost had a couple. We just keep working that way, we can pot some.

"There's a bit of an adjustment coming from the AHL. It's quicker here, you have to make your decisions a little bit faster."

But with Jagr almost ready to return and extra bodies on site, personnel decisions are looming.

"You can't really think about that,'' said Jankowski. "It was the same in training camp for me. You can't think of the business side too much. You control what you can control and the rest will work itself out if you keep working hard, playing your game and playing well."

What's beyond dispute is that he certainly hasn't looked in over his head or out of his depth here, at the highest level.

"With every game, I feel a little more comfortable out there. That's how I've been viewing it. I just have to keep that going," he said.

"I feel, yeah, that I can make an impact here, I can help this team win."

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