PITTSBURGH – Career game No. 1,220 had a familiar feeling for Jarome Iginla.
“The closest thing to it was my first game,” he said about playing for the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first time in Saturday’s 2-0 victory over the New York Islanders.
“You’re all the way back to it, when I was 18. You’re trying to stay calm and we had an afternoon game that time, too. I tell myself that I’ve played a lot of games, just relax, but it’s different.”
After spending his NHL career with the Calgary Flames, Iginla pulled on his blue Penguins jersey with No. 12 on the back Saturday and skated on a line with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal.
He started at left wing, but Neal offered to switch sides early in the game.
“I think he was feeling bad for me in the first, I was a little lost (at) left wing and trying to adjust to different stuff,” Iginla said. “As it went on, I felt more comfortable.”
Iginla’s arrival and the Penguins’ 15th consecutive win overshadowed another important development Saturday.
Coach Dan Bylsma announced that defenseman Paul Martin will have surgery today to repair a broken bone, believed to be in his left wrist. Martin was struck by a shot in Thursday’s game against Winnipeg.
The prognosis is Martin will be out six weeks, which would wipe out the rest of the regular season and the start of the playoffs.
Martin and Brooks Orpik have been the Penguins’ shutdown pair this season. Bylsma said Kris Letang is likely to be paired with Orpik when Letang comes off injured reserve. Letang is sidelined with a lower body injury that is believed to be a broken toe.
“There will be some rotating in terms of responsibilities over the next four or five games,” Bylsma said.
After working out visa issues, Iginla arrived in Pittsburgh after midnight Saturday morning, and was inserted in the lineup for the 1 p.m. game.
“It’s not the perfect situation, but I know he wants to be on the ice with the team and we’re happy to put him in there,” Bylsma said before the game.
Iginla played 20 shifts for 17:30, including 55 seconds of Pittsburgh’s 2:41 of power play time. He had three shots on goal, two hits and was plus-1.
“It feels great to come here and be part of a win and keep rolling,” Iginla said. “The crowd was into it, and it was a great experience.”
Iginla said things started to feel more normal for him about halfway through the game. Bylsma urged him to keep things simple and try not to worry too much about grasping all of the Penguins’ systems. He’ll get a chance to work on that at Monday’s practice.
“You want to do good things out there, but you also want to stay out of trouble,” Iginla said. “You’d think that when you watch on TV and it all happens so quickly that we all have similar styles. But no, we all do play a lot of different systems and each coach definitely has different places they want you to go and they emphasize different things.”
The first game is out of the way, and Bylsma is excited about the potential of a line with Malkin, Iginla and Neal.
“Those three together, you see what a formidable threesome they can be,” Bylsma said. “As the game went on, you could see how big those three could be together.”