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Derek and Bonnie Ryan have travelled the world and beaten the odds, and now they're living out their dream here in Calgary

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

Those second two years overseas, life in Villach, Austria, was an intimate slice of Frommer's travel-guide, fairy-tale heaven.

"We lived in a little red cottage," Derek Ryan is recalling, not a trifle wistfully, of the seasons spent wearing the eagle of EC VSV in the Erste Bank Hockey League with his wife Bonnie. "Not kidding. An actual little red cottage. Brand new but so European.

"We have all those fake kinda German cities in Washington (state). But this was the real deal.

"No kids yet, just a dog. Twenty minutes from Italy. 'Hey, honey, want to go Italy today for a pizza lunch?'

"Half an hour from Slovenia, an absolute hidden gem. Beautiful.

"We're learning German. Diving into the culture. Travelling. You just don't have those kinds of experiences with your wife early in many marriages.

"We cherish those memories."

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Flames GM gives thoughts on decisions

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

The Flames will be without captain Mark Giordano, second-line centre Mikael Backlund and the recently-recalled Ryan Lomberg when the Nashville Predators pay a visit to the Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday night.

Giordano was suspended Friday by the NHL for two games following a tripping incident involving Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu at 6:17 of the third period of Thursday's 2-0 victory at home.

The defenceman was assessed a minor penalty on the play, which the league referred to as "kneeing" prior to Friday's disciplinary telephone hearing.

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Smith puts forth impressive performance in shutout of Wild

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

A hide the texture of an armadillo shell, admits Mike Smith, is as much a part of a goaltender's equipment as a set of nifty pads or a custom-made mask.

"You've gotta have tough skin," said the Flames' go-to guy post-game Thursday night. "And you've gotta have a short memory.
"That's the business.

"The business is a beast. That's part of the deal.

"When things aren't going well and you aren't playing a lot, it's frustrating. It's not like you lost it in one season.

"It's always been there.

"It's just about doing the things, about doing what it takes to get it back and not take it for granted."

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Gio moves ahead of Lanny in franchise scoring with pair of helpers in victory over Wild

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

It was kinda like Captain Kirk saluting Captain Picard as he takes command of the bridge on the USS Enterprise.

"He's passing me, is he?" said Lanny McDonald, only a few hours before inevitability became actuality. "Love it. Absolutely love it."

One hallmark Flames' skipper deferring to another.

Entering Thursday's home tilt against the Minnesota Wild, Mark Giordano required a single point to reach 405 and tie the moustachioed one for 11th place on the franchise career ladder.

Took all of 20 minutes and 50 seconds of official stop time but a second helper on Elias Lindholm's 14th goal of the season netted Giordano that Lanny-equalling point.

Then in the third, he moved ahead on yet another assist on yet another Lindholm tally.

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Flames piling up goals at incredible pace not seen since the early '90s ... sitting second in league scoring behind only Tampa Bay and Toronto

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

While they may not be pigging out like it's, say, 1988 or '89, these boys certainly are showing a healthy appetite for goals.

With 100 already accounted for, only Tampa Bay (114) and Toronto (102) have illuminated more red lights than the Flames since the beginning of October.

And while, yes, fully understanding we're still relatively early in the process, this edition of the Flaming C finds itself on a current pace to stockpile a shade under 300 goals.

You have to be an ancient historian, scroll all the way back to the 1993-94 campaign, for the last time this franchise put up 300-plus in a season, at 302.

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Paul Giordano recalls Mark's upbringing and the path that led him to stardom

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

That snow-swept mid-winter in Lowell, Mass., 2004, the preposterous idea of a regular NHL turn - much less a captaincy, the admiration of an adopted city and the respect of peers at the highest level of his chosen profession - would've seemed so far off as to be on Mars.

"Mark hadn't even gotten his own place there yet," recalls dad Paul Giordano. "Because no one was sure whether or not he was going to stay or go to the ECHL.

"He lived in a hotel for four months.

"My wife and I went to see him in December and I remember him pulling me aside and telling me: 'Dad, I get to stay up here! For the whole year!'

"He was so proud of that. So excited.

"He'd worked so hard.

"Never drafted. Small, until he shot up at 16. Had to fight for everything he's got.

"He's overcome a lot.

"And to think, here we are now …"

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Mark Giordano's strong start to the season has those on the outside taking note

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

Sometimes, drastic measures are a fella's sole recourse.

"I hid his skates the other day," confessed Flames' coach Bill Peters, on his only recourse to keep his captain from the ice when he wanted him to take a day off. "A couple weeks ago.

"Hid 'em.

"I couldn't pass it up. We didn't want him on the ice so I took his skates. That was it.

"I had to tell someone right away, in case I forgot where I put 'em, right?

"He wanted to skate and asked: 'Where are my skates?' I said: 'Can't tell ya. Or you'll go get 'em.'

"He's that kind of guy."

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The buzz around the locker-room ahead of tonight's game

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /


Coach Bill Peters on Ryan Lomberg's season debut:

"He's an energy guy. That's how he describes himself. Husk (assistant coach Ryan Huska) knows him real well. Gets in on the forecheck, lots of pace, lots of energy, on the body. He should be good for us tonight, playing with Jankowski and Hathaway."

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Ryan Lomberg could be slotting in tomorrow versus L.A. for his eighth NHL game

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

In Stockton, among his multiple handles is 'Lomborghini.'

Well, the snorting bull on the logo of the Italian luxury car company certainly jives.

And while his game may lack some of a Lamborghini's symmetrically-sleek curve-line and state-of-the-art do-dads, Ryan Lomberg does possess the straightaway giddyup of the Centerano, capable of zero to 60 in 2.8 seconds and topping out out at 217 MPH.

"The speed,'' says Ryan Huska, Lomberg's former coach with the AHL Heat and now, of course, an assistant coach here in Calgary, "is what really separates him from other players.

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Together, they helped collaborate on a USHL Tier 1 championship. Now, Johnny Gaudreau and Stars head coach Jim Montgomery are competing against each other in hockey's highest rank

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

Jim Montgomery has coached against Johnny Gaudreau precisely once before.

"I actually thought I did a pretty good job against him that night," deadpans the first-year bench boss of the Dallas Stars.

"I was coaching at Denver and he was at Boston College.

"They beat us 5-1.

"He had five points.

"Two goals, three assists. True story."

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