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'I HOPE TO HELP THIS TEAM WIN'

Jankowski centres line with Sam Bennett and Curtis Lazar in first practice with big club

by PAUL MAWDSLEY @NHLFlames / calgaryflames.com

It's been a fantastic couple of days for Mark Jankowski.

After getting word Sunday from Flames brass that he was being recalled, the young centre made his journey from Stockton, Calif., to Calgary.

"I got the call yesterday and it was a good feeling," said Jankowski. "You can't really think about that too much when you're down [in the AHL], you just have to focus on yourself and your game and your team. The rest of it will take care of itself."

Wasting no time, the AHL standout joined the big club on the ice Monday morning for his first practice with the team before an afternoon flight to Nashville where the Flames will face the Predators Tuesday night, (6 p.m., TV: Sportsnet Flames, Radio: Sportsnet960 The FAN).

Jankowski skated in his accustomed centre position in practice and was flanked by Sam Bennett on the left-wing and Curtis Lazar on the right.

Video: Jankowski talks about having confidence in the NHL

"It was good to get my legs under me after a long travel day yesterday," Jankowski said. "I felt good out there."

"They're both really good players and I've played with each of them a little bit in the pre-season, so I know them a little bit. In today's practice, we did a couple line things, so it was good to get that chemistry going. They're both skilled players, they can make plays, and they get in hard on the forecheck and they're tough on pucks, so I think that is going to be good for all three of us."

The presence of Jankowski has meant a move to the wing for Bennett, but that doesn't concern him at all, having played there quite often throughout his NHL career.

In fact, he's just delighted to suit up alongside the highly coveted Jankowski.

"I'm excited," said Bennett. "He's obviously going to come with a lot of energy and jump. It's a lot of fun to play with guys that are going to be really excited and have a lot of jump. It's a great opportunity and hopefully we can create some energy early."

The young pivot was an offensive force in his first six games of the season for the Stockton Heat, registering five goals and three assists.

But he understands that he'll need to put more focus on his play in his own end if he wants to stick around.

Video: Gulutzan gives Jagr update and talks about Jankowski

And that's a message he's received directly from head coach Glen Gulutzan.

"I told him today on the ice and we told him before that we want him to play free and without fear," said Gulutzan. "The other part is that there are other sharks in the water, so you have to have a real good defensive compete mindset, as well. "

"At this level, you have to play a great 200-foot game," said Jankowski, doubling down on his coach's directive. "Because if you make one mistake, it's usually in the back of your net with the skill of the players in this league."

 

The 6-foot-4, 202-lb. centreman played one game with the Flames last season, on Nov. 28, a 2-1 overtime loss to the New York Islanders on the road.

But he's not the same player he was almost a year ago. He's become more comfortable and confident in his overall game.

"I think throughout the season last year and the pre-season this year, just getting those games under my belt, I just have to trust my game and I feel that I've done that so far this season," Jankowski said.

"I'm glad to be here and I hope to help this team win."

 

 

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