SUN Hockey Pool

Flames centre almost up to speed

RANDY SPORTAK

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

EDMONTON -- It's only been in the last couple of days Matthew Lombardi looks back to normal.

He's put on nearly all of the weight he lost from the wicked flu bug that knocked him out of commission in the final week of the pre-season.

He's getting that spring in his step.

Soon, the Calgary Flames centre will show that top gear.

"It takes a little while to get back to 100%, but I feel great now," Lombardi said.

Considering how the smallest increment can make such a big difference, it's understandable why Lombardi hasn't rocketed out of the gates, even while his linemates -- Rene Bourque and Michael Cammalleri -- have found early season success with their new team.

When he first returned back to health well enough to be with the team, it was obvious he wasn't at 100%.

As much as he doesn't want to admit it, Lombardi had to have been feeling the effects during the first few games of the season.

"I think what makes great players is they fight through adversity like that," he said. "You wish you could feel 100% every night -- feel your best -- but it's not going to happen, so you just have to fight through little things like that."

The Flames sure could use the second-line centre at full capacity.

Bourque and Cammalleri have shown early season chemistry, combining for a couple of goals and six assists between the two of them heading into last night's game against the Edmonton Oilers.

In the first four contests, Lombardi had but one assist to show for his efforts, although it appeared he tipped Adrian Aucoin's point shot to open the scoring in Friday night's 4-3 loss to Edmonton.

Lombardi, the speedster who netted 20 goals two years ago, believes it to be just a matter of time before he and his linemates all hit their stride.

"We're getting to know each other better," he said. "We had some time in the pre-season together and, as the games go on, are learning where each other likes to go and where they want the puck when you pass it to them. The more you get to play together, the more comfortable you feel.

"I think we compliment each other well. Rene's got great speed, and so does Mike, and they both read and see the game well and have really good shots.

"I'm enjoying playing with them and think we're going to be a very good line."

The Flames need them to be a very good line and are counting on Lombardi to play a key role.

"Hopefully, I've learned a lot and grown a lot as a player," he said. "I've played in a lot different situations, played on the PK more than I ever did, and you learn a lot about the game that way. I think I'm more mature and better than I was."


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