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Flames forwards Colborne, Galiardi embrace playing NHL hockey at home

CALGARY - Calgary Flames forwards Joe Colborne and T.J. Galiardi are already experiencing the ups and downs of playing for their hometown NHL team.

Considering less than a dozen NHL players born in Calgary had previously played for the Flames, it's noteworthy the club has two on the roster this season.

Calgary acquired Colborne from the Toronto Maple Leafs for a fourth-round draft pick just a week prior to Sunday's home-opener against the Vancouver Canucks. The Flames got Galiardi from the San Jose Sharks in July for a fourth-round pick.

Among the Calgarians who spent time in a Flames uniform were goaltender Mike Vernon, defenceman Brad Ference and forwards Bob Bassen, Tim Hunter and Dana Murzyn.

While Colborne and Galiardi will have larger cheering sections than their teammates at Scotiabank Saddledome this season, ticket demand from family and friends was already more than they could satisfy.

"There's a lot of people asking for a lot of things," Galiardi said Sunday.

"I don't look at it as a negative at all. If anything, you just have more support."

Added Colborne: "I've kind of had to distance myself from my phone the last few days. The ticket guys have been making it a really easy transition. I've had to tell a few people 'maybe next time.'"

In a city of a million people, dozens of Calgarians have played with and against Galiardi and Colborne during their minor hockey days. Anonymity will be more elusive for the pair when they're off the ice.

Galiardi, 25, spent a season with the Western Hockey League's Calgary Hitmen, so the Saddledome ice feels familiar to him.

That ice isn't so recognizable to 23-year-old Colborne, whose lone appearance there growing up was as a six-year-old in an intermission scrimmage of a Flames game.

Galiardi is a rugged six foot two and 195 pounds. Calgary opened the regular season on the road against Washington on Thursday and Columbus the following night.

Galiardi had a goal and an assist in a 4-2 win over the Blue Jackets. He made amends for taking a goaltender interference penalty the previous evening in Washington. The Capitals scored the tying goal while Galiardi was in the penalty box en route to a 5-4 shootout win.

"I'll never fault a guy for trying too much," Flames head coach Bob Hartley said. "He went at the net. This is the only way to score goals now.

"He crossed the line, but I expect my guys on the line. I expect once in a while they'll fall on the wrong side of the fence."

Hartley put Colborne in the press box in Washington with some of Calgary's coaching staff with the intention of giving the centre time to ease into the lineup.

But a leg contusion to Matt Stajan pressed the six-foot-five, 213-pound Colborne into service the following night in Columbus.

Colborne has entered "fast-forward mode", as Hartley put it, and doing extra homework with video footage to learn Calgary's systems.

"I've been putting in some days here to get caught up, but it's nothing that I wouldn't have expected myself to do," Colborne said. "I want to be able to step in and develop trust from my teammates and the coaches and in order to do that I have to put the time in.

"Getting that first game out of the way was big and now I can sort of start to just relax and focus on playing hockey again."

He expressed relief the Flames started the season on the road because it gave him time to learn his new teammates and their style of play without the distractions of home.

"It was nice to get on the road right away and spend a few days getting to know the guys and not have to deal with stuff back here," he said. "But when you come back to the place you've dreamed of playing your whole life, it's pretty special."

Colborne played Junior A hockey in Camrose, Alta., before heading to the University of Denver. He was a first-round draft pick (16th overall) of the Boston Bruins, who traded his rights to Toronto in 2011.

He had a goal and five assists in 16 NHL appearances for the Maple Leafs. Colborne played through a wrist injury last season to score 14 goals and assist on 28 others in 65 games for the AHL's Marlies.

Galiardi was a second-round pick of the Colorado Avalanche in 2007. San Jose acquired him in a multi-player deal at the NHL trade deadline in February, 2012.

Galiardi had 39 goals and 48 assists in 221 career games with Colorado and San Jose prior to becoming a Flame. He also has a goal and three assists in 20 playoff games.

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