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Mangiapane has been putting on a defensive clinic so far this season and that - combined with his offensive flare - has earned him a great opportunity skating with Backlund and Tkachuk

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

DALLAS - As a former 50-goal man in Barrie, Ont., Andrew Mangiapane is used to having a hot stick. 

In the pros, though, coaches demand more. 

"You've got to be smart," Mangiapane said. "You've got to gain the coach's trust, and that starts with your play away from the puck. 

"That was one of my goals coming into this year, and it's going well."

Now, he's got to keep it going.

Bumped to the second line with Mikael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk tonight in the first of a three-game road trip when the Flames play the Stars in Dallas, Mangiapane is hoping to make a positive impression at both ends of the rink.

Beginning in his own end, and using that to feed into the trio's offensive game. 

"Knowing who you're on against, maybe taking a risk, and when not to take a risk," Mangiapane said of his impermeable defensive game so far. "There are lots of good players in this league and I learned that if you turn it over against a good player, it might end up in the back of your net. 

"There's a good chance that you're going to be in your own zone, so you've got to play smart defensively."

Mangiapane has done all that more so far. 

Offensively, he's been a force through the first three games, driving the play with a staggering two-thirds of the even-strength shot attempts to his credit. No other Flame has a greater percentage, and only 15 other forwards league-wide have him beaten in that category. 

The Flames have outscored the opposition 3-0 when he's on patrol, and have done so by spending the majority of his 31:19 of even-strength ice time in the offensive end of the rink. 

"Mangy's a good player," said head coach Bill Peters. "We move him around, and wherever he seems to go, that line is effective. He's on pucks, makes plays, (is) relentless on the puck, and he's got a real good work ethic."

 

Video: "They're two great players - excited"

 

But wait, there's more. 

What Mangiapane has done this year that no other Flame outside of Austin Czarnik has (in limited action), is not give up a single high-quality chance, giving him a perfect, 100% ratio in that category.

He's also the team-leader in regular scoring chances, which include slot-shots and other pinpoint opportunities from inside the tops of the circles. 

Elias Lindholm is next - but a full 18-percentage points back of Mangiapane's incredible, 76% (19-6) pace. 

This is all to say…

"He's looking good," Tkachuk said with a slow shake of the head. "The thing that separates Mang from a lot guys on our team, and this league, is that speed. He uses it to his advantage in every area of the ice and does an amazing job getting the D to back off, opening up space.

"He's fast, man.

"Whenever I have the puck, it seems like he's always in a position to get open. That makes it so much easier in either end of the rink, but especially on breakouts. If there's a key to being good defensively, that's it - don't spend any time down there.

"We've only played together for a couple periods, so I'm sure there will be a bit of a transition period, a few teachable moments where we'll need to learn where the other ones are, but that'll come.

"All I know is I'm really excited for tonight.

"He brings a different element to our line."

Mangiapane played a career-high 15:10 on Tuesday against the Kings - much of that, an early audition with his new 'mates.

He's proven himself to be a good fit in that role.

Now, he's got to keep it going.

"Every player here likes to play, and even when you play a lot, you still want more, right?" he said. "I'm excited. Excited to be playing with those guys - they're two great players."

Asked why Mangiapane's defensive game has been so noticeable this year, Peters couldn't explain it, beyond the player's rapid development, overall, this past year. 

Sometimes, time, is all it takes.

"Just a young player coming into his own," Peters said. 

Right before his eyes. 

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