CALGARY – Despite just one assist each from top-line forwards Jarome Iginla and Olli Jokinen, the Calgary Flames have still managed to jump out to a 2-0 start.
The Flames now hope to continue that early-season success against the 2-0 Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night (Sportsnet, 9 p.m. ET) at the Pengrowth Saddledome.
“We haven’t been 2-0 for a long time,” said Iginla of the Flames, who have been criticized for having slow starts in previous seasons. “We’ve been doing what it takes to win.”
Iginla said he would rather answer questions about him not producing offensively after a pair of wins, than talking about putting up meaningless points following a string of setbacks.
“You’ll go through 82 games and you’re going to look at it and there’ll be games where you can be better,” said Iginla, while commending hit teammates for stepping up with big goals in Calgary’s first two games. “It’s great to see different lines (producing) on different nights and that’s part of a good team.”
Jokinen said he saw positive signs during Calgary’s 4-3 win in Edmonton Saturday night when he recorded an assist, while the third member of the trio, David Moss, counted a pair of goals.
“Obviously our line’s got to pick it up a little bit offensively,” said Jokinen, who has primarily played centre alongside Iginla since being acquired from the Phoenix Coyotes at last season’s trading deadline. “The last game was a lot better. We spent a lot more time in their end. We’ve got to simplify our game a little bit, shoots puck a little more. “
“We’ve just got to focus on tomorrow’s game, be good defensively and goals will come, that’s for sure.”
Calgary coach Brent Sutter isn’t too worried about his two most high-profile forwards having slow starts to the season as long as they’re playing well defensively.
“Like everyone else in the room right now, we’re still working through things to make sure our team is good, and Jarome and Olli are taking pride in that,” Sutter said. “I know offensively everything will be fine with both of them, if they just continue to focus on our team game.”
Against the Oilers, Moss counted both of his goals by driving to the net hard, including the game-winner when he swatted a botched clearing attempt by Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin into a wide-open net.
“Fortunately for us, he just made a mistake,” said Moss. “My role on the team and on that line is to go to the net and make sure we have a presence there and I’m happy to do it.”
A big key to Calgary’s success so far this season is that the Flames have gotten off to quick starts against both the Vancouver Canucks and the Oilers.
Against the Canadiens, they’ll face a tough test against goalie Carey Price, who has recorded a 1.89 goals against average and .951 save percentage in two Montreal victories.
“He’s a great goalie and we’re going to need to put a lot of heat on him,” Moss said.
If he gets the call again in net, Price said he’ll be prepared for everything the Flames can throw at him.
“When teams jump out early, it’s usually when you’ve got to have your head in it right away,” Price said.
With defenceman Andre Markov out of the lineup for four months due to a lacerated tendon in his ankle, a heavier load will now fall on other Montreal rearguards like Josh Gorges.
“We know that coming into this building, it’s going to be tough,” Gorges said. “We’ve got to make sure that right from the first faceoff that we don’t sit back and wait for them to come at us, but try to dictate the play ourselves.”
The game will also feature the return of left winger Michael Cammalleri, who signed a lucrative free-agent contract with the Canadiens in the off-season after recording a career-high 39 goals with the Flames last season.
“It is very special,” said Cammalleri of returning to play at the Saddledome where he knows the Flames won’t take it easy on him. “I know they’re going to try and make it as miserable as they can for me and our whole team because that’s what they do and that’s what we did when I was on that team.”
In addition to Cammalleri, the Canadiens also signed forwards Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta and Travis Moen and defencemen Jaroslav Spacek and Hal Gill over the off-season, while bringing in a new coaching staff led by veteran bench boss Jacques Martin.
“I’m not surprised to see them be where they’re at right now,” Sutter said. “They’re an organization that was disappointed with their year last year and they’ve retooled and they’ve got off to a good start.”
“That being said, we still need to focus on what we do and how we have to play.”