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A VIEW TO A KILL

Rieder draws into the lineup and looks to continue his penalty-killing prowess, which coach Peters describes as 'elite'

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / calgaryflames.com

'Elite' isn't a term used loosely in the coach's media playbook.  

It has meaning. 

Carries weight. 

But when it came to reciting the all-world penalty-killing prowess of newcomer Tobi Rieder, that was exactly the path Bill Peters went down.

 

Video: "I'm really excited to be here"

"I think he's an elite penalty-killer, to be honest with you," Peters said following a recent pre-season tilt against the San Jose Sharks. "Powerful guy, quick, a lot of dimensions to his game.

"He's one of those guys that needs to get one (goal) and when he does, breaks the seal, away he goes."

Nailed it.

Rieder will make his long-awaited Flames debut tonight after making waves in the pre-season, scoring a one-year contract, and finishing off the exhibition schedule with a memorable, two-goal night against his former team, the Edmonton Oilers. 

He will sun in for Austin Czarnik, who is a bit banged up and will get the night off.

"My confidence is really high right now," Rieder said following the morning skate, the Vancouver Canucks in town for an 8 p.m. puck drop in the 2019 Scotiabank Home Opener. "That was exactly what I needed before the season got going.

"I'm really excited. This is what I worked all summer for. 

"Can't wait."

 

 

Rieder, who made a terrific first impression upon his arrival in Calgary, finishing second to captain Mark Giordano in the team's fitness testing, had four points (2G, 2A) and 11 shots in five pre-season games. 

Only Johnny Gaudreau had more. 

But it was his play away from the puck that got the attention of the brass over all else. 

"I've been killing penalties my whole career," Rieder said. "(The system) changes a little bit when you go from team to team, but I think you've got to have good instincts, you've got to know what they're trying to do."

Last year, Rieder finished fifth among Oilers forwards (and ninth overall) with more than 87 minutes of ice time on the 4 v. 5 penalty-kill. 

Rieder, though, played in only 67 games while those ahead of him - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (82), Kyle Brodziak (70), Zack Kassian (79) and Leon Draisaitl (82) - played more. 

Regardless, in that time, Rieder was on the ice for only 12 goals against, while contributing to four short-handed markers - more than any other player. 

In addition, his 86.36 on-ice save percentage on the PK led all skaters who regularly appeared in a penalty-killing role. 

"Honestly, it's fun," Rieder said. "I love it. It's such a critical part of the game nowadays, so if you can create a role for yourself and do well with it in the process, that's good for me and the team."

Rieder, played more on the PK than any other Flames player in the pre-season this year, says those numbers are the result of a lot of hard work, both on the ice and in the video room. 

"There are certain players in the league where you know if he's a shooter or a pass-first kind of guy," he said. "That's where the coaching comes in. If you've done your homework and can see the play developing in front of you, it makes it a little easier to anticipate the play.

"Then, it all comes down to your instincts.

"That extra half second of reaction time can make all the difference between a goal against and a 200-foot clear."

 

 

Rieder also has another tool in his arsenal: Speed. 

Whether it's defending deep in his own end, creating a turnover and spinning the play back on offence, it is, by far, the winger's biggest asset. 

"I try not to give them too much time to handle the puck," Rieder said. "You can draw up all the plays you want, but if I can pressure them, make life tough on them, chances are they're not getting the play off that they want to. 

"That's my focus when I'm out there.

"Most of the teams use four forwards now, too. They're usually thinking offence and might not be the quickest on their feet going back the other way. So, if the opportunity arises, I'll definitely be thinking offence. 

"But I'll never go out of my way or cheat to make that happen. It's defence-first.

"Always."

Rieder will line up tonight on the fourth line, with Mark Jankowski in the middle and Andrew Mangiapane on the port-side flank. 

On the PK, he'll be deployed with Derek Ryan. 

The Flames went 4-for-6 on the penalty kill in Thursday's opener in Denver, and are hoping to clean things up with the sharp-shooting Elias Pettersson leading the charge on a vaunted Vancouver powerplay.

"I'm ready to go in any situation they need me," Rieder said. "It's always exciting to play in a home opener. Especially in this barn, with these fans. 

"It's a good opportunity for us - and for me, personally - to get off on the right foot."

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