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'I'M PUMPED FOR HIM'

Iginla thinks good pal Lucic will flourish with Flames

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com

In his day, Jarome Iginla was not someone to be trifled with, either.

As sidekick Craig Conroy once, famously, said of his prodigious pal: "When things get hard, he gets better.

"And when he gets mad, oh boy, look out."

So Iginla is able to appreciate what a Milan Lucic, in the right environment, can infuse.

"I was a player who liked the physical side of things, too," the Flames' legend is saying from home base in Boston, reacting to his old team's acquisition of the bruising Stanley Cup-winning left-winger. "I know - everyone does - that he's one of the more intimidating guys in the game.

"Today, there's less of them, the tough guys, which makes him even more intimidating. 

"I'm excited, as a Calgary Flames fan and as a friend of his. I had the chance to play with him, we were linemates and we've kept in touch.

"For whatever reasons, it didn't work out in Edmonton. I don't know why. But as a fit in Calgary? A great guy. Good teammate. And they don't have a player like him. 

"The Flames are a skilled, fast team and they've got some some gritty guys, too. Is there a more competitive D-man than Gio? You've got Tkachuk. Sam Bennett, who plays hard. Hamonic. Gritty players, but skilled.

"Then you add Looch? That's a big man coming at you. It helps everybody, being able to play their game, to feel comfortable, and not have to worry about certain guys.

"There's still an element of that in the game."

The Flames, of course, piled up 107 points en route to a first-place finish in the Western Conference before being upset by Colorado in the first round of the post-season.

Trades are always about filling vacancies, and clearly the Flames pinpointed upgrading size and abrasiveness.

"When you compare regular-season to playoffs they still seem like different styles of hockey to me,'' says Iginla. "A lot more is still let go in the playoffs and it becomes a battle, a lot tougher style. There's less room, it's more about 1-on-1 battles, creating space.

"That's when Looch can shine."

 

 

The big fellow, he's quick to point out, isn't all brawn.

"I think he can help on a number of fronts. Leadership, for one. The physical side, as I mentioned. Fighting - if it comes to that. He's happy to stick up for his teammates.

"And I definitely think there's an offensive dimension to his game, too. His playmaking is underrated.

"Get his confidence back, fit in with different linemates, find some chemistry going with different guys, a niche on a line and all of a sudden he's on a roll.

"Tough to move in front, hard along the boards, good hands. He can really help a line."

Joining a group trending upwards can make all the difference in the world, too.

"When a team's having success, it's just easier for everyone to play. When you're missing the playoffs in Canada, it's stressful. That's the way it is, that's what you sign up for, nobody should feel sorry for you, but on some teams if you're not feeling great on a certain day and other guys are stepping up, you're still winning and you don't get down yourself. 

"Environment is a big thing."

Iginla was part of the group that encouraged Lucic to waive a no-trade clause and join the Calgary project.

"As an intimidating as he is on the ice, he's like a big kid in the locker-room,'' says Iginla. "His energy is infectious. He takes things to heart. When you're in a winning atmosphere, when that confidence is there, you can relax and just be yourself.

"Last year watching the Flames it looked like they had a lot of fun playing together, they truly enjoyed each other's company, were happy for each other. He can thrive in that atmosphere. He'll add to that culture.

"I think the fans in Calgary are going to enjoy him, too. They're passionate, knowledgeable but they also enjoy the physical side.

"As a friend, I'm pumped for him. And, like I said, as a fan I'm excited for the team.

"I'm already watching but I'll be watching even more closely now."

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