By Miranda Baker
It looks to be a good year for speedy forward Matthew Lombardi.
Already well on his way to a career best with 25 points (13g, 12a) in 38 games, the 24-year-old forward has been tearing up the ice and helping the Flames second line boost the team's game offensively.
"For me that's the number one part of my game, trying to use my speed and doing everything at a high speed. Taking pucks to the net and doing little things like that," commented Lombardi.
"If you keep your feet moving and use that to your advantage, it's going to create chances out there."
And he seems to know what he's talking about. Lombardi, who's known as a player that drives hard to the net and creates chances on the breakaway, has been hot in recent games, racking up 3 points in his last two games alone.
In fact, Lombardi scored the only two goals in the team's recent 3-2 loss to Vancouver, including his fourth short-handed goal, which puts him second in the league for shorties. Only Pittsburgh Penguins rookie Jordan Staal has more, with five short-handed goals.
"He's playing really well," said linemate Chuck Kobasew. "He's probably the fastest guy on our team and he creates a lot of chances from that."
But if you ask Lombardi, what it all boils down to is confidence.
"I think confidence is a huge thing," added Lombardi. "I think getting a chance to play on the power play and the penalty kill and getting more ice time as well, so confidence comes with that."
According to Flames Head Coach Jim Playfair, the new NHL rules allow players, such as Lombardi, to use their speed to their advantage.
"I think with the new rules, being able to skate is obviously a very evident part of the game now, and Matthew's ability to skate with the puck is really effective," said Playfair.
"And I think he's where he wants to be. He's a second line center iceman, so he has to make a heavy push and help our club when needed."
Lombardi, a native of Montreal, Quebec, was Calgary's third round draft choice, chosen 90th overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. During the Flames 2005-06 campaign, Lombardi recorded six goals and 20 assists in 55 games. He also led the Flames in short-handed goals last season with two.