Giordano and Blackwell fit in, immediately get to work with new Maple Leafs teammates

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When he went to the bench for a quick refresher during training on Tuesday, Mark Giordano kept reaching for a water bottle marked No.5.

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That may be the veteran defenseman’s only miss during his first practice with the Maple Leafs at the Ford Performance Center.

It’s the number Giordano, 38, wore with the Seattle Kraken and Calgary Flames, but it’s not an option with the Leafs because Bill Barilko’s No. 5 banner hangs from the rafters of the Scotiabank Arena.

So number 55 is for Giordano.

“I was a big Nick Lidstrom fan growing up, and when (No. 5) was available in Calgary, I jumped on it,” Giordano said, referring to the Hall of Fame defenseman who played for the Los Angeles. Detroit Red Wings. “I’m actually really happy that I managed to get a number five (with the Leafs). It’s quite special.

Of course, the crest on the front of the jersey carries more weight for the Toronto native. Never mind that Giordano played 1,004 National Hockey League games and won the Norris Trophy in 2019. There was jitters before Giordano took to the ice, about 20 minutes before practice started .

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“I haven’t been really nervous for a practice in a long time, but I was looking forward to it and happy to have this one under my belt,” Giordano said. “It’s a team I’ve followed all my life. There is a lot of history with this organization, but it is special to be able to say that you are from here and that you played for the (Leafs). »

With the New Jersey Devils as opponents Wednesday in the Leafs’ first game after the National Hockey League’s trade deadline expired on Monday afternoon, coach Sheldon Keefe immediately involved Giordano and newcomer Colin. Blackwell, both acquired from Seattle on Sunday.

On the blue line, Giordano was paired with Timothy Liljegren. Blackwell, a right-hander, skated on the left wing on the fourth line with Jason Spezza and Wayne Simmonds.

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Giordano, on the point, and Blackwell, on the bumper, were part of the second powerplay unit. Giordano in the unit replaces Rasmus Sandin, who is on injured reserve with a knee injury, while Blackwell has taken the place of Ondrej Kase, who again has not trained and continues to be watched after hitting his head in a collision with Nashville’s Matt Duchene on Saturday. .

“It was like another day at the office for (Giordano) and that’s really what you’re looking for, when you bring in an established veteran player is for them to look comfortable straight away, like in his place,” Keefe said. “I thought the same with Blackwell. Confident, comfortable and I think both guys will be a great fit.

A native of Lawrence, Mass., Blackwell was content to cheer for the Boston Bruins growing up and said his idol was the equally short Sergei Samsonov, who spent eight seasons in Boston. Blackwell was quick to note that he was “definitely not” a Bruins fan anymore and remarked that wearing number 11 for the Leafs reminded him of playing high school hockey at St. John’s Prep in his home state, where the colors were blue and white.

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“It brought me luck,” said Blackwell, 28. “I came out of my shell, I was a little late and that’s when I was able to take the next step and gain confidence.

“Awesome (to be in line with Spezza and Simmonds). Spezza is a legend of the game, as is Simmer, a couple of big bodies. My speed and tenacity on the puck can hopefully complement them.

As Jake Muzzin continues to recover from his second concussion of the season – the defender still wears a non-contact red jersey in training – Keefe thought it made more sense to put Giordano with Liljegren.

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Morgan Rielly and Ilya Lyubushkin stay together, and Brodie had Holl on his right.

“What I like the most is that (Giordano) gives us options,” Keefe said. “It allows for a more efficient distribution of minutes, to share some of the workload in our group, with another veteran who can play in all situations. And it’s important for us to try different things.

“We know that Giordano and Brodie have worked well in the past (with the Flames). We also want to see this in blue and white.

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Maria D. Ervin