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Iginla makes Penguins debut against Islanders

by Chris Adamski

PITTSBURGH -- Roughly 12-1/2 hours after touching down here, Jarome Iginla made his Pittsburgh Penguins debut.

The veteran forward had his visa issues resolved Friday, caught some good luck connecting flights from Calgary to Chicago to Pittsburgh, and arrived in his new NHL home around 12:30 Saturday morning.

At approximately 1:08 p.m., Iginla was on the ice for the faceoff against the New York Islanders with his streaking, star-studded team.

"When I called Jarome, he said, 'If you can make a spot for me, I want to get on that ice with our team,'" Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said about two hours prior to game time. "So is it ideal that he flew yesterday and got in last night? It's not the perfect situation, but I know he's 100 percent wanting to be on the ice today, be on the ice with the team. And we're happy to put him in there."

Acquired from the Calgary Flames for prospects Ben Hanowski and Kenny Agostino and a first-round pick early Thursday morning, Iginla skated on a line with reigning NHL scoring champion Evgeni Malkin and James Neal for the Penguins, who have won 14 consecutive games and have opened a seven-point lead in the Eastern Conference standings.

"It's nice that it's an afternoon game and I'll not have to be dealing with the nerves and the excitement throughout the afternoon," Iginla said. "I'm looking forward to getting going."

A right wing during most of his career in Calgary, Iginla could move to the left side, at least initially, with the Penguins. Pittsburgh has spent most of the season searching for an adequate complement to Malkin and Neal, who had 40 goals last season.

Neal had been playing on the right side the past two seasons after he had been a left wing with the Dallas Stars. Iginla recalled first breaking into the League 16 years ago, skating on the left side in deference to veteran Theo Fleury.

"I'm very happy to try it," Iginla said. "I think I can do it, but whatever coach thinks.

"I look forward to trying it. I've tried it different times; it's a lot easier than trying to shift at a center. Right or left, I don't think is that much different."

Bylsma has said he will keep the Penguins' top line of Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis together. Those three have combined for 32 goals over the past 18 games.

Pittsburgh's third line will be Brendan Sutter centering Matt Cooke and Brenden Morrow, another former captain (Dallas Stars) whom general manager Ray Shero traded for early this week. The Penguins also acquired defenseman Douglas Murray from the San Jose Sharks on Monday.

Like Iginla, Morrow waived a no-trade clause, effectively choosing the Penguins. Iginla said Morrow's decision didn't go unnoticed when he approved his trade to Pittsburgh to join him.

"The success that the Penguins have and how good of a team they are and have been is a big part of it," Iginla said. "But when you see that they're going for it and getting character guys like Douglas and Brenden, competitors that you compete hard against. ... It was already enticing but more enticing once you see them really going for it.

"Being not as young as I once was (35), every year that goes by you want to win more and more and be a part of it. Leaving Calgary, which has been home for a long time and I enjoyed playing there ... when you leave, if you're leaving you want to go to really have a great crack to win, and I think they have that here."

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