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LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles Kings forward Jarome Iginla was critical of himself in his first game with his new team Thursday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The newly acquired forward played 15:46 and fired no shots on goal, mostly playing on a line with Anze Kopitar in LA’s 3-2 shootout win. But really it was hard to expect much from the 39-year-old Iginla, one day after a trade from the Colorado Avalanche to his new team.
“I don’t think I was as good as I’d like to be tonight. I would like to be better than I was tonight,” Iginla said. “Hopefully (I can) just find a good fit here that I can bring, something that – just chip in. Whether it’s a big play or a big goal at some point to be stable on the line too and stuff, so it’s the first day. It’s an adjustment but it’s a fun game to be a part of and real happy with the way we came back and the building was going – I think it’s pretty cool.”
Mostly, Iginla was just thrilled to be in a game that meant something. He had spent the entire season with the last place Avalanche and he could sense the importance of Thursday’s contest for both Los Angeles and Toronto.
The Kings entered the night’s slate of games one point out of the Western Conference Wild Card position while the Maple Leafs were holding onto the last Eastern Conference Wild Card spot by one point.
“You could feel it being in that game. They’re battling just as we are and each point is so important and the desperation – it is fun to be a part of that and the urgency of every shift and kind of – I would say the urgency,” Iginla said. “Just every shift is so important and all the little battles both ways and stuff and the intensity. You could definitely, it has been a while in those (types of games) and it’s fun to be a part of it again.”
Even though Iginla wanted a little more out of himself, the Kings didn’t expect too much from the future Hall of Famer. No matter how much experience Iginla has, change is hard and Los Angeles is a new team and plays a different style than Colorado.
Plus he came into Thursday with just eight goals and 18 points in 61 games. The Kings weren’t expecting the player who has scored 50-or-more goals twice in his career. They just want him to fit in their system and play mistake-free hockey and chip in offensively.
“Well, it’s a big adjustment. He’s coming from a team that hadn’t had much success and the whole belief system,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. “He’ll be fine. Just play. Relax and play.”
Thursday was the first step in both sides trying to familiarize themselves with each other and the Kings believe as both sides gain a better mutual understanding, Iginla’s production will increase.
“I mean, I don’t think the chemistry is quite there yet that we wanted it,” Kopitar said. “I’m sure we’re going to talk about some stuff and obviously he’s got to get comfortable with everything, so we’ll work on it but there are obviously some good signs out there.”
Now Iginla has a day to get a practice under his belt with his new teammates before Saturday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks. His only real current issue is that he may not have brought the appropriate clothes for the warm Los Angeles weather. The Avs were on a road trip in Ottawa at the time of the deal and Iginla tried to be prepared for a potential trade by packing a heavier suitcase, except he forgot a certain type of clothing.
“I didn’t pack any shorts so I’ll have to figure that part out,” Iginla said.
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