After missing 21 games due to injury earlier in the season, Mark Giordano wasn’t about to let a freak accident keep him out of the lineup for any more time.
While the Calgary Flames celebrated a 4-2 road win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday, Giordano had to get stitches on his upper lip after a puck deflected off his own stick and hit him in the mouth late in the third period.
|Blueliner Mark Giordano has amassed 5 goals and 11 assists in 44 games this season. |
Undeterred, the 28-year-old defenceman returned to the lineup on Friday wearing a face shield during Calgary’s heart-breaking 3-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks.
Unfortunately for Giordano, he suffered a much worse injury when he ruptured tendons in his leg during a 1-0 win in Nashville over the Predators on Nov. 29. That forced him to an agonizing stint on the sidelines for all of December and the first part of January.
“Sitting out and just watching, it’s frustrating not being around the team,” recalled Giordano, who hails from Toronto. “That’s the biggest thing. You get out of your routine. You have a lot of free time on your hands. You’re trying to get better (and) sometimes you have to take that time to heal. The most frustrating thing is you’re not around the guys; you’re not around the locker room.”
After rehabbing his injury, Giordano didn’t miss a beat when he made his return to the lineup on Jan. 12 during a 1-0 overtime win at the Scotiabank Saddledome over the Ducks.
“I thought after the first few games he really got into the groove,” said Calgary coach Brent Sutter. “It was just timing with him finding his legs.
He’s back to his normal Gio now. He’s been rock solid for us. It gives us that guy in our top three that we certainly need to have.”
In his rookie season with the Flames, fellow blueliner T.J. Brodie has definitely learned a few things from his veteran teammate.
“He’s a great guy,” Brodie said. “He does it all. He hits, he blocks shots, he jumps in the play. He makes good breakout passes and he’s solid defensively. He’s definitely a guy that you want to look up to and model yourself after.”
Not bad for a guy who was never drafted into the National Hockey League after two seasons playing with the Owen Sound Attack of the Ontario Hockey League.
“It’s pretty crazy how a guy like that can go undrafted,” said Brodie, while adding that the Flames are definitely a better team with Giordano on the ice. “He’s definitely not a guy you want out of the lineup.”
After finishing up his junior career with the Attack, Giordano was given a free-agent tryout with the Flames in the summer of 2004. He played well enough to earn a contract and played the 2004-04 season with the Lowell Lock Monsters of the American Hockey League.
In the 2005-06 campaign, Giordano scored 16 goals and added 42 assists in 73 games for the AHL’s Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights. He also played seven games for the Flames and earned his first NHL assist.
The following season, Giordano earned a regular spot with the Flames and recorded seven goals and eight assists in 48 games before deciding to ply his trade in Russia with the Moscow Dynamo of the Kontinental Hockey League during the 2007-08 campaign.
“It was an eye-opener for me playing in a totally different country, a totally different style,” said Giordano, who re-signed with the Flames on Canada Day in 2008. “I took what I could from it and was happy to come back.”
And the Flames are definitely happy to have 6-foot, 200-pound defenceman back in the fold.
“The reason why where he’s at where he is today as a player is because how hard he’s worked and how committed he’s been,” Sutter said. “He’s a warrior. He competes and he brings it every night.”
Giordano also brings a positive attitude with him to the rink each and every day, which is what the Flames need heading into an important game against the Dallas Stars at home on Sunday afternoon (4 p.m.).
“You can gain a lot of ground by winning head-to-head games at this time of year,” said Giordano, who’s confident the Flames can get right back into the battle for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“There’s four or five teams right there. You start dropping games and you can fall out of it pretty quick as well, so we’ve got to get back into the winning column. We know right now it’s time to turn it up.”