Publish date:

Inside The NHL

Flaming Hot
Calgary's emerging star Jarome Iginla has muscled to the top of
the league in scoring

To the frequent appearances on the highlight shows that had been
the extent of his small-screen resume, Flames right wing Jarome
Iginla can now add a thespian credit. Last month Iginla, 24,
taped an episode of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's
crime drama Tom Stone. Of his cameo, in which he sparred in a
gym with one of the program's regulars, Iginla deadpans, "No
lines--and it was still really hard."

Acting might not be his bag, but Iginla's season is the stuff of
made-for-TV movies. After scoring both goals in Calgary's 2-2
tie with the Avalanche last Saturday night he led the NHL in
goals (22) and points (39). He made steady progress in each of
his five previous NHL seasons, but Iginla has taken a quantum
leap, and no less an authority than Wayne Gretzky, the Coyotes'
managing partner and executive director of the Canadian Olympic
team, recently declared that Iginla might be the best forward in
the league.

"When I came up, it seemed like things on the ice were happening
so fast," Iginla says. "I used to rush my shot. Now I'm
realizing that there's a split second more to do things. I'm
getting clear of the defenseman and not getting my shot blocked,
or getting in closer to the net and getting off a quality shot."

Though his game revolves around muscle--the 6'1", 200-pound
power forward wins battles along the boards and stakes out a
position near the net--Iginla's off-ice regimen in the past two
years has emphasized quickness. "I'm trying to train more like a
track athlete," he says. "Forty-meter sprints on a running
track, powerlifting instead of strength lifting. Our strength
trainer, Rich Hesketh, is an ex-decathlete, and he reminds me
that the faster you get off the ice, the faster you get on the

Teamed on the Flames' No. 1 line with center Craig Conroy and
left wing Dean McAmmond, Iginla had scored at least one point in
19 of Calgary's 26 games, with the surprising Flames going
11-2-5-1 in those 19 (13-6-5-2 overall). That line had accounted
for 38 of Calgary's 73 goals. After flying under the radar
during the first quarter of the season, Iginla and his linemates
are a marked bunch. "To be a top unit, they've got to face the
opposition's top defensive lines night in and night out and
still find ways to succeed," says coach Greg Gilbert. "That's
the challenge. The matchups have been tougher for them lately,
but getting past that is part of the learning curve."

Iginla, who grew up in Edmonton as the son of a Nigerian-born
father and an American mother, is in the final year of a
three-year, $5 million contract and is eligible for salary
arbitration next summer. He says he wants to stay with
cash-strapped Calgary, where he's played his entire NHL career.
Why not? He may be a television small-timer, but with the
Flames, he has top billing.

Detroit's Backup Goaltender
Playing Behind Best Is Worst

Through Sunday, Manny Legace had a 7-0-0 record this season, a
19-game unbeaten streak and a nearly permanent groove the size
of his behind on the Red Wings' bench. Legace has the misfortune
of backing up six-time Vezina Trophy winner Dominik Hasek, and
because of that his job is synonymous with superfluous.

"I've never been in a role like this before," says the
28-year-old Legace, who was 24-5-5 as Chris Osgood's backup last
season in Detroit. "I'll look at the schedule and see we have a
game, then a couple days off, a game, then another couple days
off, and know I'm not even going to be considered to play. Those
are the hard weeks. I had a 38-save shutout [on Nov. 21 against
the Blue Jackets], and then I didn't play for three games."

Despite Legace's outstanding play, he has been on light duty
since the Red Wings acquired Hasek from the Sabres on July 1 and
allowed the Islanders to select Osgood in the waiver draft. "It
was a disappointment," Legace says of the trade that brought
Hasek for forward Slava Kozlov and a No. 1 draft pick. "I
thought Chris and I could have been a good tandem for five or
six years."

Although there's no quibbling with the results--Detroit's
22-4-1-1 start had the Wings on pace to shatter the Canadiens'
single-season points record of 132, set in 1976-77--it's hard
not to pity Legace, whose sparkling numbers (1.96 goals-against
average, .931 save percentage) were better than Hasek's (2.48,
.906). "I'm finding that the mental side is the toughest," says
Legace. "When you're playing every day, you get into a groove.
When you play one game after having two weeks off, you've got to
get pumped up all over again, and the first period feels like
the first game of the season--you've got butterflies. Being
content with it is what they're telling me I have to be, not
what I want."

Mighty Ducks' Enforcer
Punch-drunk With Joy

After toiling for 10 years in places like Spokane and Worcester,
left wing Kevin Sawyer has finally punched his way onto the NHL
map. Through Sunday, Sawyer, the Mighty Ducks' enforcer, had
shown an astounding readiness to drop the gloves by amassing a
league-high 118 penalty minutes and 16 fighting majors. He also
retains the happy-to-be-here demeanor of a 27-year-old who,
before this season, had played in only 22 NHL games, with the
Blues, Bruins and Coyotes, beginning in 1995-96.

In training camp, on the first day of intrasquad scrimmages
Sawyer, who was signed as a free agent in July 2000, picked
fights with veteran brawlers Jim Cummins and Denny Lambert.
Sawyer's enthusiasm and fistic ability so impressed coach Bryan
Murray that he gave Cummins's roster spot to Sawyer. "It's never
fun fighting your teammates," says Sawyer, "but I had to make
myself noticed."

He got noticed for another reason on Nov. 26, when he scored his
first career goal, beating the Rangers' Mike Richter in the
second period of a 3-2 Anaheim win. "I got into the dressing
room and found that my wife, Jessica, had left a message
screaming into my cell phone," Sawyer says. "I couldn't make out
what she was saying, but it was something like, 'Honey, you
scored in the NHL. I can't believe it!'"

COLOR PHOTO: BILL WIPPERT The 24-year-old Iginla, who had a career-high 31 goals in 2000-01, has already scored 22 this year.



who do you think should be Canada's Olympic Goalie?

Martin Brodeur
The 29-year-old Montreal native has struggled this season (2.68
goals-against average, .891 save percentage through Sunday), but
he has won two Stanley Cups and has led the league in victories
every season since 1997-98.

Curtis Joseph
The 34-year-old Keswick, Ont., native is sailing along this
season, with a 2.10 goals-against average and a .913 save
percentage, but despite many stellar postseason performances he
has yet to lead a team to the Stanley Cup.

THE VERDICT: Brodeur is sure to right himself, but when Joseph
gets hot, he's nearly unbeatable. In a short tournament, that
makes Cujo our pick.