SUN Hockey Pool

Quick studies for Flames

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:53 AM ET

There isn't a single Calgary Flames player on the roster who hasn't improved since the NHL season began.

But none has made the speedy turnaround as quickly as the line of Matthew Lombardi, Steven Reinprecht and Chuck Kobasew.

And speed is the key word in that sentence.

"Chuck and Lombo are both real fast players," said Reinprecht yesterday as the Flames prepare to battle the Phoenix Coyotes tonight at the Saddledome (7 p.m., Fan 960). "They not only work hard but they work smart. They're pretty easy guys to play with, you just gotta keep up with them."

Showing off their wheels in the transition game, the trio almost singlehandedly earned the Flames a point during a two-goal comeback against the Dallas Stars during Thursday night's home-opener. Reinprecht and Kobasew scored on plays set up by Lombardi to knot the game at two and send it to overtime.

They continued to roll against the hated Edmonton Oilers Saturday, although only Reinprecht made it onto the scoresheet after tallying an assist on a first-period powerplay goal.

"We knew we needed to get better, the three of us," said Lombardi. "We started off against Dallas. (Saturday) we didn't have as many chances but just doing the little things is going to help us out.

"We just have to keep building on that and being consistent, not taking nights off."

They're 2-for-2 so far and may be the key to success against the Coyotes tonight. Wayne Gretzky's squad doesn't lack speed, so Darryl Sutter's Flames will have to be great breaking out of their own end.

"That's how we're going to be a good line -- moving our feet and trying to get to the net," said Lombardi. "Chuck and Rhino have been doing a great job finding me or finding each other and getting pucks out. So, we have a lot of speed coming out of the zone. Then we can create stuff off the rush."

Kobasew, who had an incredible AHL season with Lowell during the lockout last year, agrees his line's footspeed makes them dangerous.

"That's the key," he said. "We've got to use our speed and create that way. We obviously didn't play well the first four games and we know that we have to try and get better."

Kobasew's physical play against the Oilers, highlighted by a crushing hit on defenceman Igor Ulanov along the end boards early in the first period, hasn't gone unnoticed either.

"He throws himself in," said Reinprecht. "He plays the game hard. He may not be the biggest guy but he's got a big heart and he gives you everything he has."

All part of the game plan, said Kobasew.

"It's all a part of our forecheck," said the gifted winger. "If we get in there and get pucks in the right spots then we can get a chance to hit their defencemen and try to wear them down. That'll help us out as the game goes on."


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