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Flames soldier on despite captain Iginla's goal-scoring drought

CALGARY - No goals in his last seven games would weigh a lot heavier on Jarome Iginla if the Calgary Flames were losing all the time

But while the Flames captain has gone uncharacteristically dry in January, some of his teammates stepped up to the plate just before the all-star break to contribute goals in three straight wins.

The dynamic has flip-flopped this season as there was a time back November when Iginla was asked what it was like to score a lot while his team was losing a lot.

Iginla has 31 goals and 32 assists in 50 games, but in his first practice back with the Flames after serving as captain of the Western Conference in Sunday's all-star game, he faced questions about just one shootout goal - which isn't counted in a player's official stats - since Jan. 5.

He didn't score in the all-star game either. It's the longest drought for Iginla since the 2005-06 season, when he went nine games without a goal between Nov. 16 and Dec. 25.

"I know," Iginla said. "When the game comes you don't really think about that and you try not to. Before the games, it's not as easy just to think about all the good stats.

"Everybody goes through it in a year, streaks and a little bit of a tough period. When you're counting (the scoreless games), you feel like you're due for a hot streak and that's the way I look at it."

Once 13th in the Western Conference earlier this season, the Flames were a respectable sixth Tuesday with a 25-17-8 record, sitting just one point back of Minnesota for the Northwest Division lead.

Calgary hosts the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday after having a full week off from playing games.

"We're more of a veteran team and we aren't as young as we have been in the past," Iginla said. "A lot of guys are in their prime. We'll take advantage of this rest we've had.

"We were able to go into the break getting some wins and that's what you want to do when you have to sit on it for a week."

The Flames' improved defence has had a big hand in their climb into the playoff hunt. The blue-line seems to have adjusted to the addition of three new defencemen this season and goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff has played better lately, allowing just four goals in three games.

But the Flames go as their captain goes, so Craig Conroy and Stephane Yelle scoring goals in back-to-back games for the first time this season prior to the all-star break is significant.

"What good teams do is you just keep carrying each other," Iginla said. "If some guy goes through a tighter patch, other guys get hot."

Added Daymond Langkow: "You don't want to put too much pressure on one individual and Jarome's been tremendous for us all year. We can always do more and guys have been doing more recently."

The Flames didn't seem worried about their captain during Tuesday's lighthearted practice.

The formal part of the session lasted only 30 minutes, during which the players enjoyed four-on-four and three-on-three drills, capping it off with a shootout drill that had head coach Mike Keenan smiling and joking.

"It's helpful to see other people capitalize on their scoring opportunities and build another layer of scoring among this group besides the obvious," Keenan said. "To have another group of players develop some confidence at this point in the season is very important for us."

The Flames have 32 games left - 14 of them at home - and only 11 points separated second and 14th in the Western Conference on Tuesday.

"These games are going to go quick," Iginla said. "This time of year, after the all-star game, it feels like that last push that everybody has and every team looks at themselves. Some are out of a playoff spot and know their time is now.

"We look at ourselves and we want to be moving up."


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