<
>

Iginla, Marleau focus on Games 4 and 5

CALGARY, Alberta -- When Team Canada's roster for the World Cup of Hockey was announced Saturday, Jarome Iginla and Patrick Marleau found out they'll be spending part of the summer together.

Both captains have other things on their minds, though: the upcoming back-to-back games that could determine the course of the Western Conference finals.

Iginla's Calgary Flames host Marleau's San Jose Sharks in Game 4 on Sunday afternoon. Shortly after the final buzzer, both teams will fly to California for Game 5 on Monday night.

That's two critical playoff games in about 32 hours -- not an ideal situation for either team.

"You'd always like to have a bit more time between games, but we'll be prepared for whatever happens," Iginla said. "This is a big chance for us to hopefully take control of the series, if we're lucky enough to play well."

Iginla got the news of his World Cup selection shortly before the Flames held practice, while Marleau slept through the morning announcement at the Saddledome. After a Sharks staffer awoke him with the news, Marleau spoke to his parents and fiancee about his first selection to a Canadian squad at a major international competition.

"It's not a bad way to be woken up," Marleau said.

Both teams are pleased by their captains' selections -- but both could use bigger contributions from their leading scorers as the conference finals heat up.

Iginla established himself as a stalwart for the Canadian team with a strong performance at the Salt Lake Olympics, capped by two goals in the gold medal victory over the United States.

He has grown as a player in the two years since, honing an all-around game with two-way play, solid passing and impressive leadership as the captain of the young Flames. He has been near the playoff scoring lead for a month, but he has just one goal in three games against the Sharks -- the final tally in Calgary's 4-1 victory in Game 2.

And Iginla lost his cool in the final minutes of Game 3, getting tossed for arguing with the officials. Iginla apologized afterward -- but Flames fans know their captain often plays much better after a fight or a dispute.

"I probably blew my top a little too much," Iginla said. "I wouldn't like to do that again ... but we like to play close to the edge and be energetic and physical. It's nice to raise your emotions sometimes."

Marleau also has grown up immeasurably in the past two seasons. Once the second overall pick in the draft, he entered the NHL at 18 and struggled for several years to become a consistent scorer.

He still is inconsistent, as seen in his current six-game scoring drought in the playoffs. But the Sharks depend on Marleau's offensive contributions -- they're just 2-4 since he stopped scoring -- and the constant threat he poses to other teams.

The Flames have neutralized Marleau with consistent defensive pressure, mostly from Robyn Regehr -- the third player in the series selected to Team Canada on Saturday.

Marleau also has grown into leadership. The Sharks began the season with a rotating captaincy every 10 games -- but midway through the season, captain-of-the-month Alyn McCauley approached coach Ron Wilson about a permanent designation.

"I just told Ron that Patty was our captain," McCauley said. "It's in the way he plays and the way we follow him, and it's also in the way he conducts himself. He took ownership of this team, and I just thought he should be recognized."

Marleau has been the captain ever since during the best season in franchise history. He had 28 goals and 29 assists to match his career-high point total in the regular season, and he has two hat tricks in the playoffs.

Calgary coach Darryl Sutter has watched the players' development during his time in charge of both teams.

"That's great for them, because it's an evolution for them," Sutter said. "They're different types of players, but now they've elevated themselves to that level for their country. That's great."

Game notes
Wilson expects LW Nils Ekman to return to the lineup for Game 4. Ekman, a 55-point scorer in the regular season, was scratched for Game 3 after getting just two assists in 13 playoff games. "I know what I'm capable of, and I want to contribute," Ekman said. "A little break like that can help -- I hope." ... Calgary D Andrew Ference didn't skate Saturday. The Flames made no announcement on his condition.