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SNAPSHOTS: Injury to Tkachuk would be major blow for Flames

Calgary Flames left-wing Matthew Tkachuk (No. 19) might not be available for Game 3 of the NHL Western Conference quarterfinal series with the Dallas Stars in Edmonton.
Calgary Flames left-wing Matthew Tkachuk (No. 19) might not be available for Game 3 of the NHL Western Conference quarterfinal series with the Dallas Stars in Edmonton.

EDMONTON — As if a last-minute loss doesn’t sting enough, there’s fear that the Calgary Flames could now be without their tone-setter and one of their top talents.

Flames alternate captain Matthew Tkachuk made an early exit in Game 2, departing after being sandwiched by a pair of Dallas Stars — Jamie Benn and eventual hero Jamie Oleksiak — on a neutral-zone collision early in the third period.

Tkachuk is a tough cookie, so it’s certainly a bad sign that the 22-year-old winger was M.I.A. for the final 15 minutes while his team was trying to piece together a comeback. The Flames were able to even the score, only to surrender the go-ahead goal with 39.3 seconds remaining in regulation en route to a 5-4 heartbreaker.

There was no update on Tkachuk’s status during the post-game press conferences.

“We could have used him,” said Flames coach Geoff Ward. “He does an awful lot of things for us. He’s an emotional leader for us. He’s a gamer. He leads our team in a lot of ways. He relishes being in these types of games. He’s an extremely intelligent player. He’s a key guy on the power-play …

“So there are a lot of things that he brings to the table and for him not to be able to finish the hockey game for us, it’s a hole. And now we have to go back and evaluate exactly what’s going on.”

For all those reasons, it would be a major blow if No. 19 is not available for Friday’s Game 3 at Rogers Place (8:30 p.m. MT, Sportsnet/Sportsnet 960 The Fan). This best-of-seven series is currently knotted at one win apiece.

Tkachuk, who had a team-high 61 points prior to the pandemic pause, made several trips to the locker-room Thursday, including one with a grimace on his face after a stick to the groin area on an early faceoff.

It was after that double-whammy in the third that he left for good. As he collided with Benn, his head appeared to slam into Oleksiak’s own noggin.

If Tkachuk is a no-go for Game 3, Sam Bennett seems like the most likely candidate to fill his usual slot.

Subbing on the top power-play in Thursday’s late stages, Bennett scored the tying tally on a nifty re-direct. He also racked up seven hits, including an early crunch on Andrej Sekera and a couple of cranks on John Klingberg.

“Chucky is a warrior,” Bennett said after the 5-4 loss. “He battles hard for us, game-in and game-out. I guess we’ll see what’s up with him, but he’s a tough kid. He brings a lot to our team.

“It’s unfortunate that he had to leave there, but he’s a tough kid.”

Added Flames captain Mark Giordano: “You never like to see a guy not play down the stretch, but hopefully it’s something minor and he can get right back with us.”

SIX-CESS STORY

Giordano suited up Thursday for his sixth battle in the bubble.

That might not seem like a newsworthy sum. He and his Flames teammates are hoping to stick around for a long while yet.

But Giordano, 36, was marking a personal milestone during Game 2 of this opening-round showdown. Due to injuries and early exits, the Flames’ captain and workhorse defenceman has never logged more than five post-season outings in one year.

So six — that’s four during the first-of-its-kind qualification round and two square-offs so far with the Stars — is not insignificant.

“It means a lot. This is what you play for — to play in playoffs,” Giordano said after morning skate. “It’s been tough with some injuries I’ve had to deal with over the years and then not getting in a bunch of years. It’s been really tough.

“You can have all the regular-season success you want, but this is what it’s all about. And we have been saying it all year — we think our team is really built well for the playoffs this year.”

Giordano is Calgary’s longest-serving skater, now in his 14 th campaign in the Flaming C.

His career resume includes more than 900 appearances. Counting this summer restart, only 18 of those have come in the post-season.

When he and his pals eliminated the Winnipeg Jets in the play-in round, Giordano was on the smiling side of the handshake line for the first time. Back in 2015, when the Flames last won a series, he was recovering from a biceps tendon injury.

While most of the core pieces are 20-somethings, Giordano won’t get too many more cracks like this.

“You don’t get these opportunities often,” Ward reminded prior to Thursday’s tilt. “I think as a young player in this league, if you have early success, sometimes you assume that it’s going to happen again and again. But the reality of it is it doesn’t. Our guys have been talking about that an awful lot, right from the beginning of training camp. They have the opportunity now to immerse themselves in the playoffs and to really appreciate what it brings and what the experience is totally like.

“I think everybody in our group right now is really learning from it. They’re really enjoying it. And they’re holding it dear. They appreciate that they’re here. They certainly don’t take it for granted. And they understand that at this time of the year, this is where some legacies for players are made, and they want to have statements on that.

“There are a lot of things that I’m sure Gio is looking forward to, but he’s not the only one in our room. Everyone is.”

OFF THE GLASS

In a back-to-back scenario, the Flames now have a decision to make — stick with Cam Talbot in Game 3, or give David Rittich a chance in the crease? … Ben Bishop, who’s been bothered by some sort of injury/ailment and served as backup in the series-opener, was between the pipes Thursday for the Stars. He recorded 22 saves … Thanks to terrific hustle and then a snapshot inside the post, Tobias Rieder scored his second shortie of the post-season. According to Sportsnet’s stats crew, the last Flames skater to pot a pair of penalty-kill goals in the same playoff run was Jarome Iginla back in 2004 … Just a reminder that Stars blue-liner Miro Heiskanen, who tallied twice in Game 2, is the youngest guy on the ice in this series. At 21, he is already really, really good. It’s hardly a bold prediction to suggest he’ll have his name engraved on the Norris Trophy eventually. On Thursday, Heiskanen became the fourth-youngest defenceman in NHL history to enjoy a multi-goal game in the playoffs. Only Phil Housley, Red Kelly and Sergei Gonchar achieved that feat at an earlier age, and that’s impressive company … Johnny Gaudreau was celebrating a birthday in the bubble Thursday. The superstar left-winger turned 27. Corey Perry and Oleksiak ultimately spoiled the birthday celebrations. While there is blame to go around after a sloppy line change, Perry’s superb pass on the game-winning goal sizzled right through Gaudreau’s lane.

wgilbertson@postmedia.com

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Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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