Andersson’s commitment to fitness leads to bigger role with Flames

March 31, 2019 - Comment

It would have been hard to imagine at the end of training camp that six months later, Rasmus Andersson would find himself playing alongside Mark Giordano on the Calgary Flames’ top defensive pairing before the season was through. Back in October, Andersson was one of the final cuts coming out of training camp. On Friday,


It would have been hard to imagine at the end of training camp that six months later, Rasmus Andersson would find himself playing alongside Mark Giordano on the Calgary Flames’ top defensive pairing before the season was through.

Back in October, Andersson was one of the final cuts coming out of training camp.

On Friday, Andersson was playing alongside Giordano, wracking up more than 18 minutes of ice time and picking up an assist.

Based on the way the Flames practised on Saturday morning, the 22-year-old looks set to reprise that same role for what a pivotal Pacific Division contest against the San Jose Sharks on Sunday.

It’s a testament to Andersson’s development that he went from being sent to Stockton before the start of the season to playing such a pivotal role as the Flames come down the stretch and begin their final preparations for the playoffs.

To hear head coach Bill Peters tell it, though, Andersson owes his season-long improvement to his decision last summer to stay in Calgary for seven weeks and fully commit to working on his fitness.

“What is was, was an unbelievable commitment in the off-season to being ready to play in Calgary,” Peters said. “He got himself in elite shape and that was an issue for him early in his career, so he got himself in elite shape and it’s got to be something that stays with him the rest of his career, he can’t take his foot off the gas in that regard.

“He spent a lot of time in Calgary with (Flames strength and conditioning coach Ryan van Asten) and invested in the work, and now he’s getting the reward.”
That reward has been a steady increase in playing time ever since he wsa recalled by the Flames from Stockton and made his season debut in the team’s third game against the season.

In the later months of 2018, Andersson was playing under 15 minutes a game, more often than not. By the time March rolled around, though, it hasn’t been uncommon to see Andersson playing closer to 17 minutes on most nights.

He’s contributing on both ends of the ice and has scored two goals and added 15 assists through 75 games, and like Peters, Andersson says a lot of it can be attributed to the work he put in last summer when he decided to stay in Calgary and work with van Asten – although his girlfriend has helped out, too.

“I worked with RVA for seven weeks and then I headed back and kept doing what I was doing here, so it’s all thanks to RVA, “ Andersson said. “He’s an unbelievable strength coach and you need to listen to him when you’re here, and that’s what I did.

“I kind of went all-out this summer and I brought my girlfriend over and she’s kind of a nutritionist. She wants to study to be a nutritionist and personal trainer … She knows the right food to put in my body and she always cooks healthy. Every day when she cooks at home it’s a healthy meal and it helps when it’s right in front of you.

“She’s an unbelievable cook and she always makes healthy meals, so it helps a lot when you don’t have to cook yourself or order in.”

Between his girlfriend’s cooking and his extra focus on working in the gym last summer, Andersson’s efforts have paid off this season. Whether he stays paired up with Giordano is anyone’s guess at this point, and the Flames coaching staff may very well decide to slot TJ Brodie back in next to the Flames captain and drop Andersson back to the third pairing as the playoffs inch ever-closer.

Hearing the way Andersson’s coaches and teammates talk about him, though, you get the feeling he’ll be getting lots of chances to prove he’s a top-two defenceman in the near-future.

“I think you can’t teach what our young guys have in our system,” Giordano said. “(Anderson, Oliver Kylington and Juuso Valimaki) all have poise with the puck and they have that patience you can’t teach and they never panic out there.

“He has a really heavy shot and really good instincts and as his career goes on, I’m sure he’s going to be a top, top guy on the back-end. He’s just trending that way and everything that’s thrown his way, it doesn’t seem to phase him at all.”

NOT IN

Peters has repeatedly said he was hoping to see Sam Bennett back in the lineup this weekend, but at Saturday’s practice it didn’t look like the injured winger was part of the plan for Sunday’s game against the Sharks.

Peters remains optimistic that Bennett will have recovered enough from the upper-body injury that’s sidelined him for six of the Flames’ last seven games to play in the next couple days.

“He’s going to play soon, one of the next two,” Peters said “Quick skate here today and we’ll discuss a little bit on the plane. If he doesn’t get in against San Jose, I’d be surprised if he didn’t play the next one in Los Angeles (against the Kings) on the back-to-back.

“We want to get him in as soon as we know it’s right and when (Bennett) gets in we want to leave him in and get ready for the playoffs.”

ZAVGORODNIY SIGNED

The playoffs might be just around the corner, but the Calgary Flames are still thinking long-term.

On Saturday, the Flames announced that they’d signed 2018 seventh-round draft pick Dmitry Zavgorodniy to a three-year entry-level contract.

The 18-year-old native of Omsk, Russia, is currently playing with the Rimousi Oceanic in the QMJHL, and scored 28 goals and added 36 assists in 67 games during the regular season.

He’s a 5-foot-9, 175 lb left-winger and he’s already added four goals and an assist through four playoff games for the Oceanic, who swept the Chicoutimi Sageneens in their first-round matchup.

daustin@postmedia.com

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