PITTSBURGH, Pa. – After scoring more than 500 goals in Calgary, Jarome Iginla just wants to fit in with Sidney Crosby and the streaking Pittsburgh Penguins.
The former Flames captain, acquired early Thursday in Pittsburgh’s latest blockbuster trade, made his Penguins debut Saturday against the New York Islanders.
Pittsburgh was looking for its 15th straight victory, which would be two shy of the NHL record set by Mario Lemieux and the 1992-93 Penguins.
“They have a great team, obviously, with great chemistry and great leadership,” Iginla said before the game. “I’m just coming to fit in, work hard with them and compete.”
Iginla, a six-time All-Star, arrived in Pittsburgh on Friday night and was in the lineup Saturday, a game earlier than originally anticipated.
The 35-year-old forward had 525 goals and 570 assists in 1,219 regular-season games during 16 seasons with Calgary. He had nine goals and 13 assists in 31 games this season.
“The Penguins have been dealing with pressure for a while and they’re rolling,” Iginla said. “They’re a very skilled group, very dynamic, but they work hard and compete hard. I’m just coming in to join that.”
The move for Iginla, who waived his no-trade clause to come to Pittsburgh, was the Penguins’ third big deal in a week, bolstering them from Stanley Cup contenders to prohibitive favourites. Pittsburgh also obtained former Dallas Stars captain Brenden Morrow and bruising defenceman Doug Murray from San Jose.
“It was already enticing (to come to Pittsburgh), but it’s more enticing once you see (Pittsburgh) really going for it,” Iginla said. “I’m not as young as I once was and every year that goes by you want to win more.”
Iginla is in the final year of his contract and will be an unrestricted free agent July 1. He led Calgary to the 2004 Stanley Cup finals, but the Flames haven’t been to the playoffs since 2009 and are currently 14th in the Western Conference.
Pittsburgh general manager Ray Shero gave up the rights to a couple of prospects and a 2013 first-round draft pick to grab Iginla, a future Hall of Famer still searching for his first championship after 16 seasons in western Canada.
“I enjoyed playing (in Calgary). But if you leave, you want to go to have a really great crack to win and I think they have that here,” Iginla said.
The stunning deal capped a furious four-day stretch for Shero, who brought in Morrow from Dallas on Sunday and Murray on Monday. In the span of 96 hours, the Penguins added three players with a combined 1,682 points and 189 career playoff games.
And they did it without giving up a single player on a roster that had put together the NHL’s second-best record with a month to go in the lockout-shortened regular season.
With his future up in the air, Iginla was scratched from Calgary’s lineup against Colorado on Wednesday night, ending his consecutive games streak at 441.
Pittsburgh sent the rebuilding Flames the rights to college players Kenneth Agostino and Ben Hanowski as well as its first pick in this year’s draft for the league’s fifth-leading active scorer.