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Solid NHL career taking shape for former Wrangler Deryk Engelland

On March 25, against the Dallas Stars at the Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, Deryk Engelland of Chetwynd, B.C. — but more recently of Las Vegas where he played for the ECHL’s Wranglers, met his wife, Melissa, and is building a new home — scored two goals.

They were the only goals he scored all season, in 76 games. Plus playoffs.

He did not perform a goal-scoring shuffle on the ice, because though these were his first two goals as a member of the Flames — and though they helped Calgary to a 4-3 victory on its way to the Stanley Cup playoffs — dancing after scoring a goal is not Deryk Engelland’s style.

His position is defenseman. Rugged defenseman. Standing 6 feet 2 inches and weighing around 210 pounds, his style is checking guys into the boards, and removing them from Jonas Hiller’s goal crease, and generally protecting teammates who score a lot more goals than he does.

Occasionally, he is called upon to rearrange the bridgework of guys who do not respect the goal-scoring acumen of his teammates or Jonas Hiller’s goal crease.

This is what Engelland did for Sidney Crosby, the Pittsburgh star, when Engelland skated and checked guys into the boards during five seasons with the Penguins.

Still, when the Flames signed him to a multi-year contract, some hockey people who make their home on the Canadian prairie questioned it with a certain vigor. They weren’t questioning it when Engelland scored those two goals against Dallas, however.

Engelland is 33, and he has two years left on that deal that pays him $2.9 million American dollars per season. Perhaps he has one contract left in him after that. Perhaps it’ll even be with the new team in his adopted hometown.

When it’s time to hang up his skates, he knows they won’t be raising his hockey sweater to the rafters. Not even at Orleans Arena.

But they have nailed one of his Penguins jerseys to the wall at the Philippi Sports Institute just off the Rainbow exit on the 215 freeway, which is where I bumped into the Flames’ blueliner, fierce body checker, and all-around good guy (off the ice).

Only two jerseys hang in glass cases on the wall of the gym belonging to Mark Philippi, who coached strength at UNLV and once was the World’s Strongest Man. The other belongs to Troy Tulowitzki, now of the Toronto Blue Jays, then of the Colorado Rockies when he trained at PSI.

Tulo doesn’t come around as much as he used to during his off-season, Philippi says. Engelland is there Monday through Friday, from 9 until 11 in the morning, getting himself ready for another NHL training camp beginning Sept. 16.

He was yanking on these giant braided ropes when I arrived. He looked totally fit, and he looked totally serious about getting himself into playing shape — he had already grown a playoff beard, and it was only August.

Looking totally fit during summertime is almost required in today’s NHL. It’s not like when Gordie Howe could slam Miller Lites from June until September and then skate his way into playing shape with a couple of exhibition games against the Maple Leafs.

“The first year I got called up to the NHL, I kind of trained on my own. I was in alright shape; I wasn’t in great shape,” said Engelland, who was 27 when he broke in with the Pens.

“But after that, getting a taste of it, talking to other guys, we thought it was good to come here and get a trainer. In working with Mark, everything goes up — your speed, your strength. (Hockey) is like any other sport: You want to be stronger and faster.”

To become stronger and faster, you mostly lay off the Miller Lites when they park the Zamboni.

“You don’t see many guys coming to camp to get into shape anymore,” Engelland said. “Now some guys take a month off depending when they are done, and then they get back at it. Some guys take only a couple of days off.”

And then there’s Patrick Kane. If Andy Van Hellemond still were around, he’d whistle the Chicago Blackhawks’ star for a summer misconduct.

It appeared Engelland had taken only a couple of days off since the Flames were eliminated from the playoffs in the Western Conference semifinals by Anaheim. He did not appear to be on the Gordie Howe or Patrick Kane diet.

“I don’t know, maybe some guys can’t keep weight on, so maybe a couple of beers helps them out,” he said with a chuckle.

For close to an hour, Deryk Engelland talked hockey in August in Mark Philippi’s office. Every now and then the former World’s Strongest Man would pop his head in, and say people sometimes still offer him money to lift giant truck tires over his head, but that he doesn’t do that anymore.

I figured Engelland had somewhere to be, so I tried to excuse myself. He said he had a 3-year-old son at home named Cash, for Johnny Cash. He’s not singing yet, but sometimes he makes a lot of noise.

Engelland said like Chicago on the power play, little Cash can be a handful. So that’s how he spends his off-season when he’s not in the gym. It keeps him out of trouble, were he so inclined.

Perhaps Patrick Kane needs to acquire a 3-year-old.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski

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