BOSTON – With all due respect to the two newbies, the most anticipated new face who might be in the Calgary Flames‘ lineup Tuesday night will be the team’s oldest one.
Mark Giordano took part in the morning skate at TD Garden Center and is considered a game-time decision after missing nine games with a hamstring pull.
“I’ve been ramping it up here the last week-and-a-half and it feels really comfortable,” said Giordano.
“I’m getting really close. Really feeling strong out there. We’ll go through the afternoon and figure it out. Just want to see how it settles down and, obviously, it shouldn’t be a problem. We’ve done everything. There have been days when I’ve taken contact and days when you push it skating. Obviously, the staff here does an unbelievable job with the treatment. It feels really good and turned the corner quick. Hopefully, I can get back in there, if not tonight then the next game.”
If he does play, he’ll have some of his ice time taken away by Monday’s trade deadline additions, Derek Forbort and Erik Gustafsson.
Forbort spent plenty of time killing penalties with the Los Angeles Kings and Gustafsson manned the Chicago Blackhawks’ top power-play unit so effectively that last season he quietly accrued a remarkable 60 points.
As Flames GM Brad Treliving suggested, their special-teams skills will be utilized to help reduce the workload on the 36-year-old Giordano moving forward.
“For myself, it’s whatever role I can play to help the team,” smiled Giordano, the Flames’ age-old minute-muncher.
“For us, being able to spread the minutes more is good for the team. It’s unbelievable getting two guys who have proven themselves in the NHL and we’re able to insert them into our lineup.”
Interim coach Geoff Ward had the two newcomers paired together Tuesday morning, which is how they’ll make their Flames debut.
It would mean half of the Flames’ blue-line core will be different from that used in the team’s win Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings.
TJ Brodie will play with Giordano, while Noah Hanifin will play with Rasmus Andersson — one of four Swedes happy to welcome their fellow countryman, Gustafsson, to the fold.
“When I came in here, all the Swedes came up and the other guys were pretty mad because there was another Swede here,” joked Gustafsson, who played at the world championships with Mikael Backlund and Elias Lindholm, the latter of whom is also a regular golf partner.
“I know Lindholm from way back. Backlund I played with at world champs. I know (Oliver) Kylington too. Andersson I played with a lot back home too.”
Gustafsson said his relationship on and off the ice with Duncan Keith the last two seasons elevated his game to levels that make him confident he can step in Tuesday night to anchor Calgary’s top power play. Not bad for the 27-year-old Edmonton Oilers draft pick who went unsigned following what he described as a bad year in Sweden.
A left-handed shooter, who played the right side opposite Keith, one can assume it’s likely he’ll soon be paired alongside Giordano with regularity, if only until season’s end when he’ll be an unrestricted free agent in line for a massive payday.
Forbort, also a 27-year-old rental, plays a much different game than Gustafsson.
“I’m a defensive-first defenceman,” said the Minnesota native, who played alongside another Hall of Famer Drew Doughty.
“Good stick. Good positionally sound. Penalty killer. It’s good to jump right into the fire and see how it goes. Talking to Erik, he said he played the off-side in Chicago and he’s pretty used to that. Hopefully, we can play well together. I guess that’s probably the best way to do it – figure it out together and learn together and learn each others’ tendencies as we go.”