SUN Hockey Pool

Gio making Mark with old pal

STEVE MACFARLANE

, Last Updated: 7:44 AM ET

Hearing the sharp voice of Dion Phaneuf spit out a few motivating jabs is nothing new to Mark Giordano.

The Calgary Flames defenceman heard them on the ice two seasons ago when they were occasionally paired up.

Back then he heard them off the ice, too.

Giordano roomed with Phaneuf during his first stint with the team before leaving for a season in Russia.

"Playing different things at home, going from pool to ping-pong, you always have that competitive nature with him," Giordano said.

"He's a pretty good ping-pong player, I'll have to admit. We went back and forth pretty good, but I'd give Dion maybe a little bit of an edge."

Phaneuf remembers the close competitions.

"We definitely used to battle," said Phaneuf, who was paired with Giordano on the ice at the Saddledome yesterday during the first training camp session.

"I remember we were playing ping-pong almost every day a couple of years ago. We've got a very good friendship off the ice."

That friendship could evolve into a successful partnership on the blueline as the coaching staff searches for the best combinations before the regular season.

"It definitely takes a while to get used to playing with a guy, but with saying that, me and Gio are pretty familiar with each other off the ice -- good buddies -- and from two years ago, playing with him a little bit," said Phaneuf.

In 2006-07, his rookie year with the Flames, Giordano was a part-time player who earned more regular minutes as the year progressed.

He finished with seven goals and 15 points in 48 regular-season games.

Unable to come to an agreement on a new contract as a restricted free agent that summer, he joined Moscow Dynamo the following season.

With a new one-way deal in his back pocket, Giordano is looking at the first-day pairing with a Norris Trophy finalist as a challenge.

"The way I look at it, you can only think of it as a positive thing, being with a guy like that. He's a top defenceman in this league. He's been up there in the Norris running," he said.

"I just look at it as a challenge to me to play with him and keep up with him and be a good partner for him.

"We'll see where it goes from here."


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