Jarome Iginla's playoff beard is starting to take shape. His growth is shaggy and already a bit itchy, but not yet bushy enough to hide his trademark grin.
In fact, Iginla's smile has widened a smidge. He's in the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2004 and could not be more excited to chase the Stanley Cup with his new Pittsburgh Penguin teammates.
"It's been a while," said Iginla, whose Penguins have a 1-0 second-round series lead on the Ottawa Senators. Game 2 is set for Friday in Pittsburgh (CBC, CBCSports, 7 p.m. ET). "I haven't seen it grow out like this in a while. I hope it grows it little bit longer. It's a good excuse to grow an ugly beard.
"This is the best time of the year and you want to keep it going."
In an ideal world, he would have rather stayed in Calgary and returned to the final with the Flames, the only NHL team he has played for before his trade to Pittsburgh in late March. But the direction the Flames were headed, Iginla was prepared for a change of address.
"It's tough being out of the playoffs," he said. "This past year was tough. We were hoping for a lot better in Calgary, but we could feel it slipping away. We knew changes would be coming and ultimately I probably would be moving."
Iginla admires 40-year-old Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson for being able to stick with the Senators.
"I still want to beat him," said Iginla, who will play in only his 62nd Stanley Cup playoff game on Friday, compared to Alfredsson's 118th, even though the Senators captain has played in 54 fewer regular-season contests. "I know what it's like to go for a long time and not make the playoffs."
Alfie happy for Iggy
Who knows, Alfredsson may have been on his way out of Bytown at the NHL trade deadline two years had he not been out with a back injury. The Senators were going nowhere. As a result, Aflredsson saw teammates like Mike Fisher and Chris Kelly and Alex Kovalev shipped out as general manager Bryan Murray began to successfully rebuild the Senators on the fly.
"There's always 'what ifs' and 'could haves.' I would have loved to have won five Stanley Cups in Ottawa, but you don't write your own scenarios," said Alfredsson, who is pleased for the way things worked out for Iginla.
"He was the face of the franchise in Calgary a long time. He has been a very consistent player throughout his whole career, which is remarkable.
"He knows how to score goals, but he plays hard all over the ice. He can play physical and he can drop the gloves as well. He's also end of his career. Maybe not as far down the road as I am. But this is a great chance for him to go after that Stanley Cup that we all want to win."
Alfredsson and his teammates will do everything in their power to try and make sure Iginla doesn't get that elusive Stanley Cup. But so far, his new situation has worked out.
There was an adjustment period at first, especially playing at home with in a black sweater instead of his familiar red one with the flaming C on the front. After two home games in Pittsburgh to start, Iginla felt more comfortable with his new team on the road because he was more accustomed to the dressing rooms.
But eventually he found his stride. It was a much smoother transition to fit in the dressing room with Sidney Crosby and his new teammates.
"Easy," said Crosby, when asked how it was for guys like Iginla, Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray to fit into the Penguins dressing room hierarchy. "It was pretty easy with a guy like [Iginla] with his experience. It says a lot when you bring a lot of guys in like him and it was seamless."
In the dressing room, Iginla sits beside the personable Tanner Glass, who went to the Stanley Cup final with the Vancouver Canucks two years ago.
"I was excited to find out that we had traded for him," Glass said. "He's obviously been one of the best players in the league for more than a decade now. I was even more excited to find out that he was going to be sitting beside me.
"He's a regular guy. He's down to earth."
Iginla will become a free agent in the summer, but he's not thinking past his run with the Penguins. He has been an assist machine in the post-season with eight in seven games. He did, after all, set up Crosby for his golden goal at the Olympics three years ago.
Iginla has made a downtown hotel room his home for the time being in Pittsburgh. A few of his new teammates also live there. He knows how to get to the Consol Energy Center and the Penguins practice rink in suburban Pittsburgh. But he revealed that for the first time he went to a nearby grocery store for the first time since the trade.
His wife Kara and three children have visited a couple of times and will soon be in Pittsburgh again. It's been fun for his children. "It's like a road trip for them," he said.
But if Iginla gets his wish, his kids may soon wonder who this strange person is with the beard.
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