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Andersson putting in quality minutes on Flames' blue-line

EDMONTON — This, coming from a veteran coach, is quite a compliment: “I would like to have him on my team.”

Before anybody gets bent about tampering, Peter Andersson knows that his son won’t be coming home to skate in the Swedish Hockey League.

Rasmus, 23, has established himself as a full-timer for the Calgary Flames. Now, in only his second full season at the NHL level, he’s fast becoming a core piece.

And this may be the ultimate compliment, this coming from his own coach: With just 49.3 seconds remaining in Tuesday’s series opener against the Dallas Stars, with the Flames clinging to a one-goal lead and with their workhorse captain suddenly seated in the penalty-box, Andersson was tapped to take a crucial turn.

Watching in the wee hours of the night in Sweden, the significance of that shift wasn’t lost on his proud father.

“In those important last seconds of the game, I think he has shown the coaching staff and himself and his teammates that he is trustable,” said Peter, now the bench boss for Brynas in the SHL. “For him, I think that gives him confidence. I think they trust him that he’s going to make a good decision with the puck and he can even battle hard in front of his own net and take guys out if he has to.

“And I think he has that mentality that you don’t want to be the guy who is on the ice when the opponents score. We talk about that sometimes. So make sure you have your guy, make sure you do your job, and then you will be fine.”

The stat-sheet will show that Rasmus Andersson notched the winning goal in Tuesday’s 3-2 triumph over the Stars, giving the Flames the early lead in this best-of-seven bubble battle.

Game 2 goes Thursday at 8:30 p.m. MT (Sportsnet/Sportsnet 960 The Fan.)

While that second-period snipe was a thing of beauty, equally important was Andersson’s contribution as the last seconds ticked off the clock.

Mark Giordano had just hoisted a puck over the glass in his own zone, an automatic two-minute sentence for delay of game. Calgary’s captain is a fixture on the top penalty-kill unit but as he squirmed in the sin-bin, No. 4 hopped the boards instead.

Along with defenceman Derek Forbort and forwards Mikael Backlund and Elias Lindholm, he helped limit six Stars to only one shot on net during that finishing flurry.

“He’s a real good player for us right now,” said Flames coach Geoff Ward of Andersson. “He is a competitor. He loves to play the game, and he loves the big moments. And with the way that he’s been playing, he’s kind of expanded his role and Husk (assistant coach Ryan Huska) has been able to use him in a variety of different situations, and he’s garnered the trust of the coaching staff.”

Andersson’s ascent is not news in Calgary.

It’s starting to look, though, like the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs could be a breakout party for the skilled and sometimes-salty defenceman, a guy with just 160 regular-season spins on his resume.

Early in Game 1, he stepped up to drop Jamie Benn — a dude who doesn’t get knocked over too often — at the blue-line.

With the score tied late in the second, he lugged the puck into enemy territory and roofed a wrister. Yeah, that shot glanced Andrej Sekera’s stick-blade, but it seemed ticketed for the top shelf regardless.

And thanks to that late penalty-kill assignment, Andersson finished as the Flames’ ice-time leader in the series-opener, registering two hits, two takeaways and three blocked shots in 21:46 of action.

“I don’t now if it’s a lot different than what I used to do — it’s just the more games you get, especially in a playoff series, the more comfortable you get and the more confidence you get in yourself that you can really play at a high level,” said Andersson, who’s been paired with Noah Hanifin for all of the summer restart. “Just get out there, have some poise with the puck and play good defensively, and the offensive part will come. And even if you’re struggling a little bit here or there, it’s one those things — it’s the playoffs, so you can’t get too focused on yourself.”

As he watches from back home in Sweden, Peter Andersson is understandably focused on his youngest boy.

He’s impressed, as both a coach and a proud parent.

“I think he’s been really solid defensively,” praised Peter, who totalled 47 NHL appearances during his own playing days. “I think he’s strong and pretty confident when he has the puck. I think he learned a lot from last year — how fast the game is and that if you do a mistake, the puck is going to end up in your own net. So what I see that I didn’t see so much before is I think he’s just picking the right play, even just chipping the puck out sometimes. He has a history of always wanting to play the puck, if you know what I mean, and I think he learned that. His decision game is a little stronger, I think.

“But also, he had four months back home and I know he worked hard on his off-ice stuff … As soon as he got home, he called his off-ice coach and said, ‘Hey, let’s go. Let’s start. I don’t know what’s going to happen — nobody knows — but I want to work out.’ With his buddy, (Colorado Avalanche forward) Andre Burakovsky, they started right away. So I know he put in the work to be ready when the season started again.

“And now, he’s getting rewarded.”

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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