GLENDALE – Center Matthew Lombardi has been back with the Coyotes for less than a week, but in some ways he feels as if he never left the team.
“I had a short stay here, but nothing but great memories,” Lombardi said after Tuesday’s practice. “I’m super, super happy to come back. It’s really exciting to get the opportunity to play with these guys.”
Ten players who played with Lombardi during his first stint with the Coyotes from 2008-10 are still with the team and have welcomed him back after last week’s trade with Toronto. That’s making the transition extremely easy for Lombardi.
One of the 10 is captain Shane Doan, who is thrilled to have his former linemate back on the roster.
“He’s world-class fast,” Doan said. “There’s not a lot of guys in the League who are world-class fast. I mean there are some guys who can skate, but adding that to our lineup, with what we already have, up front we’re going to be fast. That’s huge. We have four NHL centerman who could play on any team in the league and that’s a very nice luxury to have because centerman are hard to find. To have four good ones, that’s exciting.”
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Lombardi and Doan have become good friends. In fact, it was Doan who invited Lombardi to skate/train in Scottsdale with several other Coyotes players while they waited for a new collective bargaining agreement with the League. Lombardi planned on coming to Arizona to skate for just two weeks. He stayed for five.
Lombardi joined the Coyotes just in time for the season opener at Dallas on Saturday. In the first two games, he’s chipped in an assist and averaged 13:09 of ice time.
“I think he’s trying to get up to speed,” Head Coach Dave Tippett said. “He was playing wing and center in Toronto, and he didn’t have a real defined role there. We’ll try to get him in a little more defined role. It’s probably going to take a few games to get him up to speed here and get him feeling comfortable. When we had him last time, he was a very fast player and a very determined player. We’ve got to get him back to that mode.”
Lombardi, 30, said he would play any role he is given.
“These guys are a good team and there’s a lot of depth on this team,” Lombardi said when asked where he sees himself fitting in. “We’ll let the coaching staff figure that out. All I can say is I’m excited and I just want to contribute.”