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'IT'S BEEN AWESOME'

Forbort settling in and excelling with new team as Flames make post-season push

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / calgaryflames.com

Minus the perilous hijinks, it felt like a spotty re-enactment of Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Cab it to the airport, hop in the tram, fly five-and-a-half hours through the night, and grab an Uber in Boston. 

Welcome to the Flames, Derek Forbort. 

"It was nice to start with the boys on the road," the defenceman said following Friday's morning skate. "That was a huge help. We had a couple of team dinners and some good opportunities to hang out and get to know each other. For the most part, it felt like any other road trip. You're there with your team with nothing but a suitcase. 

"At the time, I didn't even know what I packed. Just threw everything I could think of in there.

"But, as a new guy, it was great to have that time to get to know everybody. The guys have been awesome, super welcoming, and it seems like we've got a great group here."

Forbort, 28, is now settled in Calgary, shacking up at a downtown hotel near many of the team's young 'uns.

Acquired last Monday in a trade that sent a conditional fourth-round pick to the LA Kings, Forbort has gotten over the "whirlwind" and is now finding comfort in his new surroundings. 

 

 

"It's been nice to get a few days in here, explore the city a little bit and try some different restaurants," he said. 

"Honestly, I don't think Calgary gets enough credit for being one of the really cool cities on the map, but it's been great. I'm set up in a great area, it's really nice, and there's plenty to get up to. I'm really enjoying it so far."

Forbort has been a mainstay on the Flames' third pair over the past five games, alongside fellow trade target, Erik Gustafsson. He's averaging more than 17 minutes per game in ice time and has been a nice addition to the penalty-kill, where he's played the most of any blueliner, and second-most of anyone outside of Elias Lindholm at 10:48, or 2:16 per outing. 

Add the fact that he's dished out eight hits (second to Milan Lucic) in that span and Forbort - a Duluth, Minn., native - has come exactly as advertised. 

"Forbs is really good in our end," interim head coach Geoff Ward said prior to the homestand. "He's good at the net-front, blocks shots. He's good on the penalty-kill, he can kill cycles and moves the puck forward.

"We're happy with both players. They give us some real solid depth on the blueline with the rest of our group and that's going to be important. It's amazing how in-demand defencemen are, especially at this time of year when you're bound to get some bumps and bruises, and injuries happen with how hard the game dictates that you need to play."

Especially at this time of year. 

With 77 points, the Flames are third in the Pacific, with a swath of clubs jousting in the wild-card race below. 

A single point separates the Minnesota Wild, Vancouver Canucks, Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets and tonight's opponent, the Arizona Coyotes. 

The Desert Dogs would leapfrog the four teams in front of them take over the top spot in the wild card with a victory tonight.  

 

 

The Flames, meanwhile, are looking to keep pace, distance themselves from those out of it, and set their sights on a second straight division title. 

Considering where Forbort was coming from - a cellar-dwelling Kings team that sold off in a big way at the deadline - it's nice to be in the thick of it once again. 

"When you're at the bottom of the league like we were, it was tough and honestly? Pretty draining mentally." Forbort said. "Coming in here and being part of this race, it gives you a boost of energy."

"It's not necessarily tough to get up for games when things were going the way they were in LA, but it definitely wears on you. It wears on everybody. But you've always got to come to the rink and do your job, and you always want to win, regardless of where you are in the standings. 

"But… it wears on you. 

"To join a team that's in the hunt and fighting for a spot, it's been awesome."

It is, after all, the playoff atmosphere that players thrive on and live for.

Forbort got a taste of it on Wednesday with the wild, come-from-behind overtime win over the Blue Jackets. 

Now, he wants to feel it again tonight, in the second of a five-game homestand, next week, deep into April, May and beyond. 

"This is what it's about," Forbort said. "It's going to be like a playoff game tonight. They're fighting for their lives and we're fighting for ours. 

"Can't ask for much more. 

"It's a big night, a four-point swing here, so we've got to be ready."

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