SUN Hockey Pool

Lombardi quietly thriving in evolving role

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

Growing heavier each and every season, the expectations once seemed to weigh on Matthew Lombardi's shoulders.

Injuring one of those shoulders early in the year snuffed the rise to top-six status many assumed he'd be making in his sixth NHL season.

But unlike previous years, the depth of the Calgary Flames forward ranks has allowed him to make his progress quietly.

And, quietly, he has enjoyed his most productive part of the campaign over the past half-dozen games.

Earning seven points in six games heading into last night's contest against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Saddledome, Lombardi has again begun to display the speed that makes him dangerous, and is often hopping between top wingers Jarome Iginla and Michael Cammalleri.

"Confidence has been real good," said Lombardi before the game.

"I feel well, I feel good -- energized. It's exciting."

Fellow burner Curtis Glencross and shooter David Moss are the guys Lombardi has spent the majority of his time with to start games.

Inevitably, though, he finds himself alongside Iginla for spurts.

He approaches each trio the same way.

"They're obviously different players, but you don't want to get too far away from what you know and what you do well," said the 26-year-old centre, who has four goals and 19 points in 32 games.

"I think it's two different styles of play, but ...

"For me, I've got to skate the puck, carry it up, and try and find those guys in the right spots."

Heading into last night's affair, Lombardi had notched four goals and 15 assists so far this season.

TOO SOON TO TALK CONTRACT

Michael Cammalleri is experiencing so many new things these days.

He's on a winning team with real potential to do damage in the playoffs.

He's also months away from being able to choose the team he plays for.

A pending unrestricted free agent, the 26-year-old pivot has enough trouble keeping his mind off what should be his first crack at the playoffs to look even further ahead than that.

"I'm trying to not get too excited about the playoffs, even though it's already bounced in my mind," Cammalleri said with a laugh when contract talks were brought up.

He's not sure where he stands just yet on the money offers versus the location and strength of team he chooses to join.

"It's new for me. It's a new thought process for me as far as all those decisions go," he said. "I've never had to deal with it in my career because I've always been restricted.

"I'm sure there'll be a time and a place for that, weighing out those things, but it's definitely not now."


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