Flames D up to test with Giordano out

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:05 PM ET

CALGARY - The news regarding Mark Giordano isn’t as good as the Calgary Flames had hoped.

Giordano suffered a hamstring injury in the first period of Tuesday’s 1-0 win over the Nashville Predators.

The defenceman was placed on the injured list Wednesday and an MRI will show how much damage exists.

It’s a big hit for a club which is in dire need of cobbling together a winning streak.

After all, it’s a blueliner who has averaged more than 22 minutes of ice-time per game, second most on the team.

“Those minutes are hard minutes because he plays hard,” said head coach Brent Sutter. “So, as a group, we’ll have to make sure we cover for that loss. Everyone just has to pull their socks up.”

Even though injury has taken out three of the seven blueliners the club expected to have in their top seven prior to the season — with Anton Babchuk (hand) and Brett Carson (back) also in that group — the news isn’t all bad.

Sure, many of the faces have changed from those who were part of the Flames defence corps when last season ended, but the new blood is making a difference.

A major difference.

Rookie T.J. Brodie’s first NHL goal served as the winner when the Flames opened this week with a 5-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild.

Derek Smith, who is not an NHL rookie because of his age, netted his first NHL goal in Tuesday’s 1-0 win over the Nashville Predators.

It’s only the second time in NHL history a team has had defencemen score their first NHL goal in consecutive games and both end up game-winners.

In fact, it’s only the fourth time in the NHL a team had two players see their first NHL goal serve as the winners in consecutive games.

Adding yet another twist, the pair have been partners ever since Brodie was summoned from the minors a few weeks ago. In fact, Brodie set up Smith’s goal.

“That’s kinda special,” said Smith. “Being partners and new to the team this year, it’s exciting. But the biggest part is getting those first goals and helping the team win.

“They’re two big wins we’ve had, and hopefully, we can keep it rolling.”

Whether the Flames (10-12-1) actually get rolling remains to be seen.

However, the club has to be credited for using this opportunity to inject new and younger blood into the lineup.

When you add 25-year-old Chris Butler to the crew with the 21-year-old Brodie and the 27-year-old Smith, the Flames are starting to rebuild a blueline brigade which just a few years ago had the now- departed Robyn Regehr and Dion Phaneuf as its major cornerstones.

Calgary’s defence corps is not going to conjure images of the Montreal Canadiens’ big three of Larry Robinson, Guy Lapointe and Serge Savard, but it’s a sign the club is making a concerted effort to find a new wave of defenders who excel at moving the puck to create offensive chances.

The goals Brodie and Smith scored in the last couple of games are perfect examples of what Sutter is looking for from the defence corps.

“We want our defence to be active, and he was active on that play,” Sutter explained while using Smith’s goal.

“Number one, Jarome (Iginla) made a really good play by being patient, waited for that play to materialize. Brode’s made a good heads-up play. Instead of just getting the puck and shooting it, he looked for a stick ... one of ours, and shot for it, and they capitalized on it. They were active and did it wisely.

“Good players do that. It’s part of character and makeup. Those two guys know how to play the game.”

And now with Giordano out for at least one week, expect them to be leaned upon more.

Smith, who bided his time for such a chance, is looking forward to it.

“I spent a few years in the minors, and you start to think your time is up and you might not be able to make it full-time in the NHL. But it’s been a great experience so far this year,” he said.

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNRandySportak


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