Giordano intent on earning spot

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:38 PM ET

Auditions are nearly closed but a new part has become available for opening night.

Calgary Flames veteran Rhett Warrener is out of action indefinitely after spraining his knee in Tuesday's exhibition game against the Vancouver Canucks while stepping into an open-ice hit.

"We're still not certain of a timeline for it," said head coach Jim Playfair. "He's on rehab right now."

While 19 prospects were sent back to their junior clubs or assigned to Omaha yesterday, Warrener's latest frustrating knee injury means one of the three remaining 'extra' defencemen -- Mark Giordano, Richie Regehr or Brad Ference -- could claim the title of sixth defencemen for Oct. 5 and beyond.

With a camp performance that thus far has impressed Playfair, Giordano has to be considered the frontrunner.

"He's certainly made a case for himself," said Playfair yesterday. "Mark's done a lot of things well. He came in as a free agent (in July of 2004), he earned a contract. He bought into the structure of how we want to teach our defencemen. He got his conditioning level up."

Giordano played seven regular-season games for the Flames last season and led the Omaha Knights in scoring with 58 points in 73 AHL contests. Playing in all three exhibition games -- the sole defenceman and one of only two players, the other being centre Dustin Boyd, to do so -- the 23-year-old has looked confident and eager to join or lead an offensive rush without ignoring his defensive responsibilities.

His development has progressed steadily since his signing as an undrafted free agent and he has seemingly surpassed both Regehr and Ference in the quest to become first on the list of blueline reserves.

"When we talked to him in the summertime, I said, 'Your job is to come make the Calgary Flames,' " said Playfair. "And now he's come in and made a really good push to do that.

"The thing I really respect about Mark Giordano is he didn't get anything given to him."

The 6-ft., 203-lb. prospect says he's ready to make the leap into the NHL in his third professional season.

"I had a few games last year and feel more confident this year," said Giordano.

SENT TO THE FARM: Reassigned to Omaha yesterday were goaltender Matt Keetley, defencemen Tim Hambly, Steve Marr, Brett Palin, Adam Pardy and Tim Ramholt, along with forwards Kris Chucko, Dereck Couture, Adam Cracknell, Cam Cunning, Ryan Donnally, Carsen Germyn, Tomi Maki, David Moss, Chris Neiszner, Warren Peters, Aki Seitsonen, Justin Taylor and David Van der Gulik.


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