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Iginla shows no signs of slowing down for Avalanche

by Pat Pickens /

Many NHL players would love to play 10 seasons, but even as Jarome Iginla approaches his second decade in the League, he is thriving.

In his 19th NHL season, and at 38 years old, Iginla has played in all 15 games for the Colorado Avalanche this season. He leads them with seven goals and his 12 points are tied for second.

Iginla's goal Tuesday against the Philadelphia Flyers was the 596th of his NHL career and moved him within one point of Peter Stastny for 38th place on the all-time points list. As the game gets younger, and on the particularly young Avalanche -- 14 players on their 23-man roster were under the age of 10 when Iginla broke into the NHL in 1996 -- Iginla is a rare breed.

Many NHL players would love to play 10 seasons, but even as he approaches his second decade in the League, Jarome Iginla is thriving. (Photo: Getty Images)

"He's a guy who takes care of himself on and off the ice," coach Patrick Roy said in explaining how Iginla is a good example for his younger teammates. "He's having a great presence in this room and certainly helps our young guys."

Iginla will try to continue up the points list and inch closer to 600 goals when he plays the Boston Bruins on Thursday at TD Garden (7 p.m. ET; ALT, NESN). Iginla played the 2013-14 season with the Bruins, scoring 30 goals and 61 points.

Also returning to his former home is forward Carl Soderberg, whose rights were traded to the Avalanche this offseason. Soderberg signed a five-year contract with Colorado and has been the center on Iginla's line.

Soderberg said Iginla has had a positive effect on his game and provided great leadership for the Avalanche.

"He's the best guy to have on the team," Soderberg said. "He works every day and he's positive, so I think he helps a lot of us."

Iginla credits good fortune for having played more than 1,400 NHL games. He's missed 50 games in his career, never more than 12 in any season. Since 2005-06, Iginla has missed 20 games.

"I've been very blessed to stay healthy throughout my career. A lot of that is you have to catch some good breaks and good bounces," Iginla said. "You try to stay in shape and keep training hard and keep practicing and keep trying to get better."

Though luck has kept Iginla healthy, he also has an innate desire to remain at that level.

"I've found I have to stay in shape and take care of myself," he said. "You have to enjoy the training, because the offseason training, you have to go hard, and I think you have to push and have the motivation there. You lose that, and it might have an effect on the ice."

His teammates see that commitment to the sport.

"He's dedicated to the game, and he has a lot of fun out there," Soderberg said. "The way he leads the team on the ice is he works hard, he battles hard, and I think that's why he shows greatness."

Iginla has fallen short of his one remaining goal, one of the elite players to have never won the Stanley Cup, though he's come tantalizingly close. A longtime member of the Calgary Flames, in 2004 he fell one game shy, losing Game 7 of the Cup Final to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

In 2013, he reached the Eastern Conference Final with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but they were swept by the Bruins. He signed in Boston after that season, and the Bruins were the Presidents' Trophy winner but were upset by the Montreal Canadiens in seven games in the second round.

"Playing is always fun, and it is the NHL, it's a great living," Iginla said. "I'd like to win. I'd like to win the Stanley Cup, but so would lots of guys."

Iginla signed with Colorado after the 2013-14 season with the Avalanche were coming off a Central Division championship. But Colorado did not make the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season and is in last place through 15 games (5-9-1).

"We'd love to be winning more, and we'd love to have made the playoffs more last year and want to get there this year," Iginla said. "I'm not satisfied with where we are in the standings. We have a lot of ground to make up."

Iginla has another year on his contract in Colorado and hopes he's around to watch the young Avalanche mature into a consistent contender in the Western Conference.

"There's no question this group will get better," Iginla said. "I'd just like it to be in the time I'm a part of it."

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