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'CHILDHOOD DREAM'

Robinson scoring goal on pass from pal Gaudreau was special for both players - and the big man aims to stick around and continue creating chances with new linemates

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

Let's face it. 

Buddy Robinson may have clawed his way back after four years in the minors, but Johnny Gaudreau is the real winner here.

"It's been great having him here," said Gaudreau, Robinson's longtime friend, high-school team and … personal chef?

"A lot of home-cooked meals. That's a huge plus. 

"He cooks a lot. Whatever I want, really. He says, 'What do you want tonight?' and he'll cook it for me. He's really big into that, so I like it when he's here."

Robinson, 28, has given the hometown team a feel-good story to rally around. 

After all, everyone loves an underdog. 

But while he's happy to talk shop and wax on about the strides he's made early in his Flames tenure, he can't help flex when it comes to his culinary creativity. 

"Oh, gosh," Robinson laughed. "I like to cook pretty much everything. Steaks, obviously. But whenever I'm at John's place, it's pretty simple - he's a simple guy, so just some pasta and chicken. He's easily satisfied when it comes to food. ... I like to experiment, but he's pretty picky, so we keep it simple over there."

In the kitchen and on the ice, it seems.

On Saturday, Robinson popped the lid of the Scotiabank Saddledome with his first NHL tuck since April 7, 2016 - a span of 1,395 days. 

It was as perfect a moment as he could imagine - re-living his days with Gloucester Catholic High, when he frequently converted feeds from his soon-to-be-superstar 
linemate.

 

Video: "We gotta start separating ourselves here"

 

Gaudreau with the pass - Robinson with the finish. 

Just like old times. 

"It was cool," the winger said. "I really don't know how else to say it - a special moment for me. … It was something I'll remember, hopefully keep that puck and maybe get a cool picture of it."

Gaudreau made sure of it. 

He immediately retrieved the milestone puck and raced over to the pile, joining his 'Buddy' for a moment neither will ever forget. 

"It was awesome. A childhood dream," Gaudreau said. "To do that at this level, after all these years, with a kid you grew up playing with at the local rink … 

"We had my dad coaching us and to get to do that was pretty special. I had like five or six missed FaceTimes from my dad after that game, so he could call and congratulate us. 

"He was really excited. A cool moment for everyone."

The last time those two skated together was during the 2009-10 season at Gloucester Catholic. Gaudreau was a Grade 10 student; Robinson, a senior, with a significant height advantage, but was later undrafted and never got a true shot at this level.

Entering his fourth NHL contest with the Flames tonight, he'll equal the highest number of big-league tilts he's ever had in a single season. 

The seven games he played previously all came with the Ottawa Senators, and were split over two seasons - three in 2015-16 (when he scored his first goal and added one assist), and four the following year. 

Ever since, he's been grinding it out in the minors, wearing three different AHL sweaters in as many years before signing with the Flames and landing in Stockton in the fall of 2018.

At the time of his recall this year, Robinson had a team-leading 16 goals and sat fourth overall in team scoring with 30 points in 40 regular-season matches. 

He was patient. 

But he never gave up on his dream. 

"It feels like I've been here for a month now, but it's just been three games," Robinson laughed. "It's been a wild week, for sure. 

"I feel like I'm playing good hockey. Straight lines, hard, physical. ... It's the little details that I need to continue to focus on and when the time comes, maybe chip a few into the back of the net as well."

 

Video: "Important game for us - try to bounce back"

 

Showing instant chemistry with Gaudreau and Sean Monahan hasn't hurt, either. 

The 6-foot-6, 230-plus-lb. winger has been a nice complement to that line. He brings speed, a physical presence and - as we all saw on Saturday - incredibly soft mitts for a man of that stature. 

"When we're in the offensive zone, a big body like that, the way he gets the puck back - you kind of think of Looch like that," Gaudreau said. "But he's fast, he can see the ice really well, and he's smart in the defensive zone. It's great to see him playing well, getting rewarded, and hopefully I can get him a couple more goals."

Robinson, meanwhile, is taking the responsibility of playing top-six minutes very seriously. 

In his eyes, the 'honeymoon' period of being recalled is now over, and he wants to be an everyday contributor for this team as it fights for a playoff spot down the stretch. 

"Friendship aside, it's special (playing with Gaudreau)," Robinson said. "Even if we didn't know each other, he's an elite-level player in this league. Same with Mony. 

"I'm not taking it lightly. It's an honour to be out there with them, so for me to keep that going, I need to work hard and create as much time and space for them with the puck. For me, get to the front of the net, get to the dirty areas, and make sure they have time to make plays."

He'll never stop feeding him on the ice. 

But away from the rink, Gaudreau might soon be on his own again. 

"His hotel room is right across the street from my condo," Gaudreau said. "He's there until 10, 11 at night, then he'll go across the street and sleep at the hotel, then come back in the morning and have breakfast and stuff. 

"But his wife just got into town, so she's going to take him a little bit away from me. 

"I'm not too happy about that," he smiled. 

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