SUN Hockey Pool

Lombardi finds higher gear down stretch

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:22 AM ET

Adrian Aucoin knows all too well what Ruslan Salei and the rest of the Colorado defence corps went through in trying to contain Matthew Lombardi the other night.

Aucoin and his fellow Calgary Flames rearguards go through it in every practice.

Although, Aucoin can point out there is a benefit when Lombardi uses his great speed against a teammate.

"Actually, sometimes in practice it's good to go against him because you know you're gonna get beat in those races. It's a given," he said. "But if you get beat by somebody else, you get yelled at.

"You get beat by him, it's not so embarrassing."

Lombardi's amazing speed came to a fore in a big way against the Avs Thursday, continuing a trend he's shown over the past few weeks. In the first period alone, he drew two penalties, both of which resulted in powerplay goals that made the difference in the 2-1 victory.

Defenceman Robyn Regehr said Lombardi can make a defender's life "miserable" when he hits high gear.

"It's really hard to defend against. He makes a defenceman that can really skate well look slow," Regehr explained.

When fans see Lombardi blazing his way down the wings and making defenders look like pylons, they can't help but be thrilled.

Of course, they just as easily can question why it doesn't happen every game. After all, Lombardi's speed shouldn't waver from day to day, so what's to say he can't be a turbo-charged burner?

"I try to skate as much as I can, but you don't get two-on-ones every game, don't get breakaways every game," he said. "You get holes, you get room sometimes and try to take it. You're not always going to get that. If you always got it, it wouldn't be a very hard game.

"It's like guys expected to score every game. It's not going to happen."

That said, it's a huge sign when Lombardi does zoom through the holes. Or when he puts a stutter-step move on Salei to draw a penalty.

"I had a bit of room, a bit of a gap, between me and the guys behind me and in front," he recalled. "I slowed down waiting for one of our guys to come but nobody did, so I tried to make a play.

"Things happen in a game, you can't plan them. You can't just decide to go out there, grab the puck and go from end to end every time you're on the ice. It'd be nice to have that happen every game, but it just doesn't happen."

One way Lombardi can contribute with his speed is being provided with his regular inclusion on the penalty kill.

Lombardi -- with 11 goals and 30 points this season heading into last night's encounter with the Minnesota Wild -- has worked to become an excellent penalty killer.

And now he's proven to become an offensive threat, too, for a team that will allow him to go for goals if the opportunity presents itself.

"I think they trust us, if you see that opportunity, take it. Why not, because teams aren't always expecting it," said Lombardi, who has a pair of shorthanded tallies. "But if it's not there, don't force it because the goal is to kill the penalty before anything else."


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