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The centreman hit his stride in Monday's pre-season game vs. the Oilers

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

Kris Versteeg has been there. Virtually all the rest of them, too.

"I know when I was trying to establish myself, a hundred years ago or so, I'd do anything to get noticed,'' the two-time Stanley Cup winner was reminiscing late Monday night after the Flames split-squad loss at the Scotiabank Saddledome. "Fight, for instance.

"I did a lot of that, back in the day, believe it or not. At my size.

"In the minors one year I think I had 11.

"It's about finding a way to get your foot in the door. Whatever. However. Making the right people take a second look at you, then a third. And hoping that keeps carrying you forward.

"Once you get that foot in, you keep it there. You don't let that door shut.

"He's a real good kid. He's got the potential to be a real good player.

"I'm rooting for him."

Monday evening in the northern half of the annual Alberta split-squad doubleheader about the only thing Mark Jankowski - that "real good kid" Versteeg mentioned - didn't do was shuck the mitts.

He scored. Made plays. Showed poise beyond his years and an on-ice presence.

"I liked that whole line,'' praised coach Glen Gulutzan afterwards. "In the third, Hath (Garnet Hathaway), Janko and Mange (Andrew Mangiapane) stuck out.

"In the first, some of the young guys looked a little tentative but by the third they just started to play. When you've got guys knocking at the door you have to give them a couple games here in exhibition season to let them do their thing; what they've been successful at in the American League.

"To realize: Yeah, you know what, it is a different league but if they adjust a bit here you're going to see the real value in their play."

Jankowski's night, very good value indeed: A couple of posts dinged and two official shots on net, a goal to bring the Flames back to within 5-4 in the game's final minute, a plus-1, 15:33 of ice time and an early look for the locals at those Charmin-soft hands and that hockey IQ folks in Stockton have been raving about.

"Hitting the posts early on, I felt a little bit snakebitten but I just knew I had to bear down,'' said Jankowski.

"Dillon (Dube) got the puck and wheeled around the D-man. He's a heckuva player. So I knew if I just kept going to the net he'd get me the puck.

"It's a little difficult with all the penalties and all the new rules they're trying to implement in the pre-season. A lot of whistles, a lot of powerplays and PKs so you've got to be ready, always had your head in it so when your number's called you go out and have a good shift.

"Even in today's game, every shift I felt a little more comfortable. That's my game - I've got to make plays. And as the game wore on I thought I was doing that more and more, especially in the third period.

"We got a lot of O-zone shifts and tried to build off that and it led to the goal."

As main training camp opened, given his stellar freshman season with the Heat, Jankowski was one of those on-the-brink players.

"A rangy guy, good head for the games, makes smart little plays because his reach is really nice,'' critiqued Versteeg.

"If he keeps going in the right direction, he could help us. Has he got a (chance to stick)? I don't know. I'm not a coach or in management.

"I'm sure he expects nothing less than to make the team."

That he does.

"That's how I came into this camp,'' said Jankowski, "focusing on giving them giving them no choice. 

"To make the team and stay here all year."

A slight smile.

"To prove, I guess, to the coaching staff what Steeger sees.

"If they me as someone who can help the team, make it a better team and help them win, then they're going to have to keep me.

"That's what my mindset is."

Consider Monday one heckuva fine first impression.

"As the pre-season goes on, as a young guy you've just got to keep up that same level of game,'' explained Versteeg, helpfully. "You can't allow your play to drop off. Those young guys have been playing for a good week, week and a bit.

"When the older guys' games start coming around, you see how he reacts to that, if the standard stays the same.

"Like I said, I'm rooting for him.

"Because when you've got someone that size who can make those kinds of little plays in tight spaces, well …

"You've got something potentially pretty special."

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