Relentless Calgary Flames hockey. The identity of the team, the way head coach Darryl Sutter wants them to play, means keeping the puck for as long as possible and doing everything you can to get it back when you don’t.
The first person that comes to mind when you think of that aggressive forecheck and dogged determination should be Andrew Mangiapane.
And on Monday, the Flames got their bulldog back from a brief injury layoff.
Opponents might want to note the centre he lined up with, too.
A pairing of Mangiapane and newcomer Nazem Kadri might be nightmare fuel for NHL defenders in the near future.
“He plays with that grit. He’ll get in there and kind of muck it up,” Mangiapane told Flames TV and other reporters assembled at the Saddledome on Monday. “He’s not afraid to get in there and cause havoc but he’s also a skilled player. Score goals and he’s smart away from the puck. Kind of the whole package there.”
Kadri and Mangiapane are both coming off career highs. The 26-year-old Mangiapane scored 35 goals and 55 points in 82 games. Kadri, 31, had a career-high 59 assists and 87 points in 71 games with the Stanley Cup winning Colorado Avalanche.
“Obviously he’s a great player. We skated a little bit together as well this summer, both being from the Toronto area,” Mangiapane said. “He’s skilled, he’s a winner, so it’s exciting times.”
Not so much for the team trying to play keep-away with those two on the ice.
It’s a bit hard to believe we’re talking about a second line that’s potentially better than last year’s after the Calgary Flames lost two 40-goal scorers this summer.
But assuming Kadri and Mangiapane stay healthy and Sutter sticks to his current vision, regardless of who joins that duo, it should be very productive. On Monday they were flanked by prospect Matthew Phillips.
Kadri was banged up in the playoffs and is being given a reprieve from games early in the preseason schedule. Mangiapane’s offseason “lower-body tweak” was shrugged off by the winger on Monday.
“It was nothing serious. It just felt good to get out there and get moving again and play hockey,” said Mangiapane, who also signed a big extension and got engaged this summer. “It’s mostly behind me, I think. Now it’s just getting the rust off. Getting up to game-speed, getting that practice work in and hopefully get into some exhibition games later.”
Considering they skated together at times in the summer, you’d think Mangiapane would have a jump on chemistry with Kadri.
But not only did he deny any knowledge of what was to come, Mangiapane also said he was passed over by Kadri in the three-on-three action.
“He was the captain of his gym, and he didn’t pick me,” he said. “I’m still a little pissed off about that.”
Photo: Sportsnet TV