Lombo's line can do it all

With Flames forward Matthew Lombardi, it's all about speed. (Sun File/Brett Gundlock)

With Flames forward Matthew Lombardi, it's all about speed. (Sun File/Brett Gundlock)

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:14 AM ET

DENVER -- Matthew Lombardi has been called a definite top-six forward by his coach.

The Calgary Flames centre could probably fit in on the top two lines, but with Craig Conroy and Daymond Langkow currently holding those spots, depth forces Lombardi into a lower profile role.

Not that it has stopped him from producing. He's had three goals in his last two outings, actually -- all clutch.

His current linemates are wingers Marcus Nilson and David Moss. The trio was put together in Nashville to be defensively responsible, often against the Predators' top line, and to provide some energy following a powerplay or penalty-kill situation.

"Those three players do have a skill-set to come back and compete after special teams against the top line on other team," said head coach Mike Keenan yesterday as the Flames prepared to battle tonight a Colorado Avalanche team that boasts a pair of lines that could be considered top-notch.

If you believe the best defence is a good offence, the newly formed line may be able to give the usual suspects a little relief by chipping in.

"We can put something on the board and be effective," said Nilson. "I don't know about hitting guys, though. We're not the biggest line."

Moss can provide the physical element and is a big body in the corners and in front of the net. The other two can be pretty crafty, although Nilson has been known as a checker for much of his time in Calgary while killing penalties and shadowing opposition.

"I think he's got a lot more skills than maybe people think. He makes some great plays out there. He's got a lot of offensive upside," said Lombardi of the Swede. "He's a really good penalty killer, blocks a lot of shots and plays really well in his own zone. I think at the same time, he can bring some offence.

"You see the skills he has in practice. Pretty unbelievable."

Yes, Nilson is a top goal-scorer in practice. And he loves to celebrate with a haul on an invisible stogie, then -- one knee raised for emphasis -- he taps the ashes onto the ice.

"He played on our top line in Florida," said Keenan, who coached Nilson when he was with the Panthers. "(He can) play in a various number of roles, which is an asset of his that really helps the hockey team. You can put him in a specialized area like penalty killing or you can put him with skilled players because he understands the role he's put into and he understands the skill-set of the players he's working with."

With Lombardi, it's all about speed. Nilson is pretty quick, too, now that a pair of devastating knee injuries have healed entirely.

He and Moss have yet to score this season, but it may be just a matter of time before both produce a few more goals to support their stars.

If it does, he says he'll stick with a fist pump rather than pull out the cigar.

"It's not going to be a cigar. That's disrespectful."


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