Jim dandy in learning role with Calgary

RANDY SPORTAK, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 8:23 AM ET

GLENDALE -- It took a few games for Jim Vandermeer to find his footing with the Calgary Flames.

Once he did, though, the rugged defenceman made himself a real hit.

Vandermeer, the team's lone acquisition near the trade deadline when nabbed from the Philadelphia Flyers for a draft pick, didn't make an impact in his first two outings with the club in terms of physical play.

He's started to provide that impact, mainly with the bodies of opposing players.

In games against the Colorado Avalanche and the Anaheim Ducks, Vandermeer led the Flames with six hits in each contest.

Against the Ducks Friday night, he added the other element expected from the 28-year-old defenceman from Caroline, winning a fight with the Ducks' George Parros.

It's right on target for the kind of game he needs to play.

"Absolutely. That's what I do best," said Vandermeer, who suited up in his fifth contest for the team last night against the Phoenix Coyotes.

"For me to help this team out, that's what I have to do and that's what I'm good at. You can't just come in, strap on the skates and go because things are gonna happen. You've got to make them happen.

"The more games I play here, the more comfortable I feel. It's coming."

You can certainly excuse the 6-ft.-1, 208-lb. defenceman for needing to catch his breath and take some time to find his way with the Flames.

Remember, this is the third squad he's played for this season, starting with the Chicago Blackhawks before being moved to Philadelphia in December.

Three teams, three sets of teammates, three different systems and all kinds of different blueline partners for a veteran due to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

"It takes time to read through the players, where they're going to be, which guys are usually in better position than others," said Vandermeer, who's collected three goals and 15 points to go with 78 penalty minutes in 58 games this season.

"Also, where I'm supposed to be and whether I'm in the right spot."

It hasn't been even a couple of weeks and he's figuring out everything.

"He's been pretty good," assessed fellow defenceman Robyn Regehr.

"He's had a few meetings with (assistant coach) Jim Playfair, and they've gone over the way we would like him to play and fit into our team.

"By watching him out on the ice, I think he's done that.

"As a defence partner, when you're playing with a new guy, it always does take time to get used to what a player likes to do. You can only create that by playing."

It helps Vandermeer stepped into some familiar surroundings on the blueline, paired with fellow Red Deer Rebel alumnus Dion Phaneuf.

Although they only played a couple of junior games together as teammates -- when Phaneuf was an under-aged call-up and Vandermeer was in his final season -- they were both trained and moulded by Brent Sutter.

"And Dion likes to talk on the ice, he communicates really well, so that helps," Vandermeer said.

"But if I don't think he's in the right spot on the ice, I'm gonna let him know, and if I'm not where I'm supposed to be, he's gonna let me know. I think that's what makes it easy, just talking to each other."

It makes quite the duo. You've got Phaneuf's skill complemented by his physical play, alongside Vandermeer physical play -- with more skill than credited.

As Regehr pointed out, Vandermeer's toughness will come in handy.

"Dion is a guy that gets under the skin of a lot of the opposition, so Jim's there to help out Dion if guys are trying to take advantage of him," Regehr said.

"He's there to back him up."


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