Long-time P.E.I. bed and breakfast owner recalls life-long fighting ...
Peers Alliance set to host annual poetry slam and have some wacky fun ...
UPEI student to share her experiences as an out, queer woman in China
Making East Coast workplaces more inclusive for LGBTQ2+ community
Have you heard about the SaltWire News app?
Visit SaltWire.com for more of the stories you want.
SaltWire Selects: Stories you don't want to miss
What you need to know about COVID-19: August 7, 2020
Calgary Flames Johnny Gaudreau during the pre-game skate before facing the Colorado Avalanche in game two of the Western Conference First Round in the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Saturday, April 13, 2019. Al Charest/Postmedia
Calgary Flames newly appointed head coach Geoff Ward in Calgary at the Saddledome on Friday, November 29, 2019. Jim Wells/Postmedia
Maybe it didn’t mean anything.
It’s entirely possible that the Calgary Flames are going to take the ice Thursday for their game against the Buffalo Sabres and play with a lineup that looks remarkably similar to the way their group has been configured for most of the season.
Interim head coach Geoff Ward certainly wasn’t committing to a major facelift after Wednesday’s practice at the Scotiabank Saddledome, after all.
But it sure did look like there were changes on the way — or at least being considered.
On both Tuesday and Wednesday, the Flames skated with a group of unfamiliar line combinations .
It’s probably easiest just to lay them out clearly:
Matthew Tkachuk was on a line with Elias Lindholm at centre and Andrew Mangiapane at right wing.
Sean Monahan found him centering a trio that included Mikael Backlund on the left and Dillon Dube on the right.
Johnny Gaudreau was out there with Derek Ryan at centre and Milan Lucic on the left. That’s definitely one we haven’t seen before.
The fourth line, finally, featured Tobias Rieder on the left, Mark Jankowski at centre and Michael Frolik at right wing.
If that’s how the Flames line up against the Sabres on Thursday night (7 p.m., Scotiabank Saddledome, Sportsnet West/Sportsnet 960 The Fan), it would certainly represent a new look for the team.
But despite two days of practising with those trios together, Ward said there was no guarantee the Flames will stay that way Thursday.
“Not necessarily,” Ward said. “We’ll sit down with the coaches after they get off the ice and we’ll throw a lineup together. We wanted to give everybody a couple days together, just like we talked about (Tuesday), to find out a lot of different things about different combinations of players. Now, we’ll sit down and have a discussion and see what we want to put out there against Buffalo.”
It’s entirely possible that this is all a bit of gamesmanship from Ward and that he doesn’t want to confirm what the media was seeing with their eyes.
It’s equally possible, though, that the Flames will go back to the lines they’ve been using for most of the year. Two days of practising on lines with other players won’t suddenly make Gaudreau, Monahan and Lindholm forget each other’s tendencies, after all.
The cold, hard truth is that nobody knows outside the Flames dressing room. Ward only took over as interim head coach last Friday after Bill Peters resigned, so there’s really no precedent for anyone to refer to when they’re trying to guess at what Ward might do.
He said Tuesday and Wednesday that he wanted to get a better look at how certain combinations work together, just in case a situation arises where he needs to use them.
It would be easy to jump to conclusions and suggest that splitting up Gaudreau, Monahan and Lindholm is being done to try and create a spark that will get the usual top-liners producing at a high-clip similar to what they did last season.
That’s not what Ward said, though. Instead, he explained in detail why he thought the combination of Gaudreau, Lucic and Ryan might actually be quite effective if given the chance.
“I think they’re compatible players,” Ward said. “You’ve got a hardworking guy (Ryan) in the middle who is really defensively aware. He’s a right shot, so he can dish pucks into the left corner, which sort of plays into Lucic’s strengths, and that allows Johnny to come off the right wall as a late man or a guy that can sort of hide in the frame and pop into a hole and get the puck back.
“That combination, we wanted to see if it would work in practice.”
Whether we see that trio together in Thursday’s game is anybody’s guess, but if Ward is proving one thing, it’s that he’s open to experimentation.
SHOOT THE PUCK!
Fire more shots.
Put more pucks on net.
The way Calgary Flames interim head coach Geoff Ward sees things, there’s no need to over-complicate things.
The best way for the Flames to start winning games is to score more goals. The best way to score more goals is … well … to take more shots.
“It’s like fishing. The more you have your line in the water, the better chance you have of catching something,” Ward said. “For us, the more pucks we get to the net, the better chance we have of more going in. Our philosophy in that regard is really simple: Let’s get pucks to the net, let’s get bodies to the net, and let’s try to create second and third shots.”
The Flames are currently middle of the pack in the NHL in terms of shots per game, tied for 16th in that category with 31.4.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019