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'STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION'

Jankowski turned in excellent performance against Philly in last tilt - and looking for more of the same tonight against Red Wings

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

Speed bumps are inevitable. 

In hockey - and in life.

It's how you bounce back that defines you.

"That was a game I could really be proud of," Mark Jankowski said of his performance on Tuesday after watching his team's previous tilt from the press box. "I felt good. Really, really good. It's something I feel I can build off.

"Obviously, no one wants to be scratched, but … I definitely needed to get going a little bit.

"On Tuesday, I felt like I was right there - a lot closer to where I need to be for this team. 

"I want to continue to be hard on pucks and be someone the coach can rely on in both ends, and have some good, hard, heavy shifts, using my size to fend off defenders, hold onto pucks and create plays. That's when I'm at my best. 

"Last game was a good step in the right direction."

Jankowski played a big role in a sterling defensive effort that saw the Flames limit the Flyers to only 22 shots on Tuesday in a 3-1 victory at the Scotibank Saddledome. 

A season-low. 

He was the team's top possession player, charting an 88.89% (8-1) Corsi in just over eight minutes of 5-on-5 ice time, and was a contributing factor offensively, too, recording a season-high three shots, along with one miss, one takeaway, and 2:29 of short-handed ice time. 

He was doing it all, heeding the challenged issued by his head coach by delivering in those key moments "consistently" throughout the night. 

Now, the challenge is building off that performance and giving his line with Milan Lucic and Austin Czarnik a spark for the second straight night. 

"He was good," said head coach Bill Peters. "I thought that whole line was real good. … I think we're real close to having all four lines going. The challenge is to get everybody going, and hopefully play a lot of 5-on-5 hockey in the first half of the game."

Peters used Jankowski as an example, but said there were several players that could have come out of the lineup following a 6-2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights last week.

 

 

But he knows how good the big man can be, and wanted to see a bit of a reset to help him translate some of the better qualities of his game into a full, 60-minute output.

"We're looking for consistency," said Peters. "He's a big body, an elite penalty-killer. Now we've got to take some of that and put it into his 5-on-5 play. Some zone time, (being) heavy on the forecheck. He had some shifts out of him that we liked on that road trip, but now it's got to be on a consistent basis."

Challenge accepted.

The 6-foot-4, 212-lb. pivot has put more of an emphasis on the physical game this year. While punishing board blows will never be the most prevalent part of his toolkit, using his tall frame to cycle the puck down low is, and will not only lead to more offence, but wear the other team down over time.

"I definitely want to use my size to my advantage," Jankowski said. "Even if you're not directly scoring goals, it's about building a game - building a shift. 

"If I can make plays and find guys by escaping defenders in the tough areas, that's what's going to make me successful and where I can contribute to this team. That's huge and I can definitely use it to my advantage."

Both Jankowski and the Flames are looking to build on a superb outing Tuesday, and head into another back-to-back road set over the weekend with a four-point sweep on this homestand. 

The balance on the four forward lines, as well as a recent increase in depth scoring, has given the Flames reason for optimism, with the 'team game' coming along and resembling more of what they've become known for over the past year. 

"It all starts with our effort defensively," Jankowski said. "We were obviously really good, really tight, the other night against Philly and we have to gain some confidence and build off that.

"If we're really tough in the D-zone and spend as little time there as possible, then we can make plays and our skill will come out in the O-zone. 

"That's what we're all about."

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