The Flames are hoping the team’s top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm will regain its mid-season form in Game 1 of Calgary’s playoff series against the Colorado Avalanche.
The players struggled following the NHL All-Star break but head coach Bill Peters isn’t worried considering the play of other players like Matthew Tkachuk and Derek Ryan.
“Which line is that again? I gotta make sure I know which line you’re talking about,” joked Peters when asked about the play of Calgary’s top line.
Peters said Monahan missed some time due to illness but is healthy now. He said Gaudreau is excited about getting another playoff opportunity after scoring 99 points this season and Lindholm is looking forward to his first trip to the post-season.
He said Monahan has mentioned the clock is ticking for his chances of winning a Stanley Cup.
“You want to win. You want to get deep into the playoffs. You want to win a Stanley Cup at some point in your career so why not try and get it done as soon as you can which is now,” said Peters. “The opportunity is right there is front of us.”
Gaudreau admits that Calgary’s power play has been suffering but puts it down to a lack of playing time together.
“It wasn’t the best toward the end of the season but a lot of mix and match, a lot of resting the guys. A lot of the guys were injured. It’s difficult,” he said.
‘Our unit’s back’
“Our unit’s back and we’ve been practising the last few days so it’s important to get that right.”
Lindholm said he and his linemates have to return to where they were earlier this season and the Avalanche’s top line of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinno, and Mikko Rantanen will bring that out.
“We want to be the better line,” Lindholm said. “Obviously we know we have been struggling lately and I think for us to keep it simple and then the plays will start opening up.”
Calgary’s other top line of Tkachuk, who finished with 77 points, Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik is expected to be tasked with shutting down Colorado’s top players.
“I think that’s what’s frustrating the most for the other team. He plays an in your face, gritty style and he’s a guy that contributes night in and night our on the scoreboard,” said Flames captain Mark Giordano.
“I’m sure he’ll be at the top of his game.”
Peters also expects big things from Tkachuk.
“He’s got a little twinkle in his eye. He’s getting excited. He’s a big game player,” Peters said.
“He likes the spotlight. He likes to be there in the trenches and right in the middle of everything and I’m sure he will be.”