Matt moves to Monsters

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:19 AM ET

A return to game action is off in the distance.

Still, Matthew Lombardi is gladly going across the continent in case those final steps are just around the corner.

Lombardi, the Calgary Flames centre who's been battling post-concussion problems since taking a vicious elbow to the chin more than eight months ago, is leaving Calgary today for Lowell to join the AHL Lock Monsters.

"I'm excited to go," said Lombardi yesterday. "To practice and be with the guys will give me more of a feeling I'm on the team which, mentally, will be good for me.

"I'll be getting up at the same time as the rest of the guys, going to the rink with them. I'm pumped.

"Hopefully, I get there and I get better in the coming weeks."

When Lombardi will play another game, though, remains to be seen.

The 22-year-old, who collected 16 goals and 29 points in his rookie season last year, hasn't played a game since Derian Hatcher's cheapshot elbow in Game 6 of the Calgary second-round victory over Detroit.

Hatcher received a three-game suspension to be served when the NHL resumes.

Due to recurring headaches, Lombardi is still only cleared to practice.

"Once my headaches are gone, yeah I can play. It's up to my body, basically," said Lombardi, who has skated with the Hitmen or SAIT's men's team since early November.

"I feel good when I'm on the ice but the problem is I still get headaches.

"I get them off and on during the day. It's not necessarily every time I get off the ice I get a headache. It's off and on.

"It's tough to put a time frame on something like this. They can't go in my head or my neck and say, 'You've got two weeks left.' I think I'm almost there. I think I'm at that last big stone that I've got to climb."

Until he's medically cleared for game action, Lombardi will continue to receive his NHL salary of $550,000 US.

Flames GM/head coach Darryl Sutter is optimistic his young centre is only a few days away from playing.

"He's cleared for practice so that's a lot further ahead, Sutter said.

"When you're cleared for contact, cleared for practice, that basically means it's probably up to him when he decides to play.

"He's missed enough time and if he feels he's ready, it'd be important for him to play."


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