SUN Hockey Pool

Lombardi looking to light it up

STEVE MACFARLANE

, Last Updated: 8:34 AM ET

With great speed comes great expectations.

At least when it comes to Matthew Lombardi, who is looking to follow up a breakout 20-goal, 46-point season with a more consistent showing this year.

The 25-year-old centre, who boasts breakaway swiftness, has always been an unpolished offensive threat. Injuries -- a serious concussion during the 2004 playoffs that cost him nearly a year, and a high-ankle sprain that postponed his coming-out party in 2005-06 -- have restrained him from reaching the lofty goals Calgary Flames fans have held for him, but with a little luck, Lombardi believes he can be better and 'bring it' every night.

"I think that's the goal," said Lombardi, who skated between Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay in practice yesterday. "For me, I look at a guy like Jarome, he's a top player on the ice every night. You look up to a guy like that, and that should be a goal for almost every guy. That's what you want to be."

Maturing as a hockey player and as a man, Lombardi has had a busy schedule since a disappointing first-round loss to the Red Wings ended the Flames' playoffs in April.

He was a force as a late addition to Canada's gold medal-winning team at the world championships in Russia, then married his long-time girlfriend Joannie.

KIDS WILL PLAY

With just two practices under the veterans' belts before tonight's exhibition tilt against the Panthers, expect to see the prospects take centre stage in the lineup.

While the Flames must dress at least eight vets, coach Mike Keenan wants to assess the kids.

"What we want to do is have a look at all the youngsters in the first three games at least," Keenan said, the vets will play at least a game over the first three contests.


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