Lombo sensed potential swap

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:49 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- Try as he wanted, Matthew Lombardi couldn't ignore the rumours.

He had been hearing for the past few weeks his name was on the trading block, and did what he could to turn a deaf ear.

As he watched trade-deadline coverage in the dressing room with the rest of the Calgary Flames, the rumours became true yesterday.

Lombardi was dealt with left-winger Brandon Prust and a first-round draft choice to the Phoenix Coyotes for Olli Jokinen and a third-round pick.

"Throughout the last couple of weeks, it was in the back of my head a little bit, wondering what was going on," Lombardi said shortly before saying farewell to the Flames at the Wachovia Center and heading out.

"I don't really read the rumours or whatnot, but this year, the way things were going, I thought it was a possibility.

"Then I heard it on the TV. It's tough to leave those guys."

Lombardi leaves the Flames after nearly six seasons in the organization, a veteran of 347 NHL games in which he collected 65 goals and 102 assists.

Despite his blazing speed and skill, he was just not able to regularly grab a spot on the club's top two lines.

In Phoenix, he'll probably receive that chance, which takes away the sting of leaving a Stanley Cup contender for a team that will likely miss the post-season dance yet again.

"It's part of the business, I guess," he said.

"I had a great time in Calgary, a great experience for me. They were the ones that gave me the opportunity to play in the NHL, and I appreciate that. It's a class organization.

"Now I'm getting the opportunity to go to Phoenix and it might be the best thing for me. I'm getting excited to go there.

"I think I'll go there with the intentions of learning a lot and becoming a better player.

"Hopefully, I can go there and help the team."

He left the Flames along with Prust, a rambunctious rookie who is currently working his way back from a concussion, and should be in action within a week.

Prust needed time to compose himself after hearing the news.

"It's sad. You're losing some friends and a city I've grown to love," he said.

"For me, it's a new opportunity, new city, new start. Hopefully, I'll get a good chance to play."

In 25 games this season, which was hindered by more than two months on the shelf with a broken jaw, Prust collected one goal and one assist to go with 79 penalty minutes. He fought a team-high 11 times.

Prust hadn't considered he'd be traded at the deadline, but was able to see upside in the situation.

First of all, he was going to a team that wanted him in exchange for a very good player in Jokinen.

"That's exciting, going to a team you know wants you. That shows they like your stuff," he said.

The other being Wayne Gretzky is the Coyotes head coach.

"That's definitely a great thing for me. Definitely one of my all-time favourites," Prust said. "I loved to watch him play. Getting to play for him and getting to know him is pretty cool."


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