Cundari eager to show his skills
Newly acquired d-man plays much bigger than he looks
Puffing after a long skate, Mark Cundari trudged past a crowd of reporters Friday morning in the Calgary Flames dressing room.
Suddenly, he stopped in his tracks, unable to locate his stall.
“I don’t know where I am,” he said, not realizing the media pack had parked at his locker waiting to speak with the latest emergency call-up from the Abbotsford Heat.
Dazed from an excruciating travel day, Cundari took off his helmet and surveyed the microphones before him.
Welcome to the big time, kid.
“It’s good to finally be in an organization where they appreciate what I bring to the table,” the five-foot-nine, 200-pound defenceman said. “I’m looking forward to showing this team, the organization, the fans and the entire city what it is I do here.”
The Flames acquired Cundari – along with goalie Reto Berra and a first-round draft pick from St. Louis on April 1 for Jay Bouwmeester. After the trade, Cundari, 22, initially rehabbed a wrist injury before reporting to the Heat and then receiving the call he has waited for all his life.
The two-time Memorial Cup champion is expected to make his NHL debut Sunday in Minnesota.
A product of the Windsor Spitfires, Cundari realizes some may count him out – due to his size on the blueline – before he even hits the ice.
That’s pure malarkey, in the mind of head coach Bob Hartley.
“The medical world has made unbelievable progress,” Hartley said. “But there’s still no machine invented to find out the size of the heart. We talk about size. We talk about weight.
“But lots of times, with a big heart and lots of commitment, you can achieve a lot. I think he could be one of those young players. He comes to play. We’ve talked all year about adding grit to our lineup.
“So we’ll put him in. Obviously, it’s going to be a great audition for him.”
In describing his style, Cundari likes to say he plays like a mean SOB – something dearly lacking on the Calgary blueline outside of Cory Sarich.
Truculence – in the immortal words of former Toronto general manager Brian Burke – is a welcome quality in these parts.
In 58 American Hockey League games this season, Cundari has seven goals and 21 assists for 28 points and 80 penalty minutes.
“I definitely like to play that physical game - play on the edge, make guys think about me as opposed to thinking about their own game,” Cundari said. “That’s kind of what I do.
“I’m not necessarily going out there to fight everybody, but I definitely want to play that nasty style of game.”
For the record, Cundari bears a striking resemblance to new teammate Mark Giordano.
Don’t be surprised if he is tagged “little Gio” in the days to come.
“That’s like the 15th person I’ve heard that from in the last two days,” Cundari said, when the subject was broached in the media scrum.
“Apparently, guys think we’re twins out here, so that’s pretty cool.”
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