Iginla Goes For a Milestone on Hockey Night In Canada

Joe LaTengo | Updated Jan 06, 2012

jarome-iginla

The first Hockey Night In Canada telecast of 2012 is on tap, and Joe LaTengo has some beverages chilled in anticipation of Detroit visiting Toronto; he hopes he has enough to see him through Minnesota at Calgary.

The regular season is halfway through, but the dogfight continues for the bottom playoff places in the NHL’s Eastern Conference. No team is more desperate to keep one of those spots than the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Blue and White are managing to hang on with 45 points from 40 games (20-15-5); they’re top 10 in goals scored, but bottom five in goals against. Obviously they need all the help they can get, and they’ll require a solid effort to get a favorable result against one of their longtime foes, the Detroit Red Wings.

At least the schedule favors Toronto. This is an easy month for them in terms of road rash: out of 12 games in January, they only have three away from the Air Canada Centre (the Sabres on Friday the 13th, the Islanders on Tuesday the 24th, and the Penguins on Tuesday the 31st after a six-day layoff for the 2012 All-Star Game at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa).

February (14 games) and March (15) will not be as kind to the Buds, so this will be their best chance to rest and practise for the run to the postseason. Meanwhile, Detroit should be better on the road. The Red Wings have 51 points from 39 games, but at 10-11-0 they’re below .500 away from Hockeytown. Toronto is fairly strong at home (10-5-4) so they shouldn’t be a pushover at the Air Canada Centre.

So the Red Wings-Maple Leafs threatens to be a barn-burner; Minnesota-Calgary holds far less promise. Humiliated 9-0 by the Boston Bruins on Thursday night, the Flaming C’s should be happy to be back on home ice against an increasingly tame Wild. The Twin Cities squad has one win in their last 10, the worst record of any team during that time.

There’s really only one compelling story here: on Saturday night, one of the greatest players in NHL history, St. Albert-born six-time All Star Jarome Arthur-Leigh Adekunle Tig Junior Elvis “Big Tree” Iginla, could become the 42nd player (and 33rd Canadian) to score 500 career goals. Doing so will tie him with another Flames legend, Stanley Cup-winning captain Lanny King McDonald.

It’s hard to pick winners for these two games, but then no one ever said NHL betting has to be clear-cut.

UPDATE: Jarome Iginla indeed made history by scoring his 500th goal for the Calgary Flames in a 3-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night. Congratulations to a classy player and a certain first-ballot Hall of Famer.

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