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BROTHERLY LOVE

Saturday's game will mark the fourth time Matthew and Brady Tkachuk will face off in the NHL

by TORIE PETERSON @ToriePeterson / CalgaryFlames.com

OTTAWA - Looking back on his brother's first couple of NHL seasons, Matthew Tkachuk can see a big difference between Brady's rookie year and his play in 2019-20.

"He's become a man," Matthew assessed. "The way he plays, not many people can take the puck off of him. He's not fun to play against at all. I've liked how far he's come so far.

"He's an offensive threat. There was always the big, physical aspect of his game and he's putting the puck in the net whenever he's getting chances now. He's bearing down," he added. "I think he's making great plays now whereas before, he was a big guy, had a great shot - he's always had a great shot and he could always score - but he's making sick plays now too. It's tough over there with a lot of the guys who left last season and he's kind of taken over, in my opinion what they've been missing with some of those guys leaving last year. He's not quite there yet but he's trending in that direction.

"He's going to be great player for a long, long time. He just turned 20 this year so he's got a long career ahead of him, a long journey, and he's only going to get better. From what I've seen this here, from how much he's improved, it's scary to think about what he's going to be like in a few years."

 

Video: "He's become a man...not fun to play against at all."

 

Saturday's matinee affair will mark the fourth time the brothers have squared off against one another, with the Flames taking the opening three tilts. While the initial novelty of sibling battle has died down, these are games that both undoubtably look forward to every year.

"I'm sure both guys are relishing the moment," interim head coach Geoff Ward said. "It will be interesting to see what the family bet is tomorrow. I'm sure there will be something there. Nothing like a bit of friendly competition to bring out the best in both sides of the family."

Similiar to how Matthew has become a fan-favourite in Calgary, Brady has become a household name in Ottawa just 118 games into his NHL career. When people talk about the Senators, his name comes up immediately - and not just for his play on the ice.

"He's such a well-liked guy," Matthew noted. "Every single person loves him on their team that I know of. He's loved in the city. He's the future of this organization and I don't think it's too hard to see that."

 

 

Also like Matthew in Calgary, Brady has become an integral part of Ottawa's organization. Not only is their future, as Matthew noted - he's their 'now.' He sits fourth in team scoring with 14 goals and 25 points, leads the Senators in shots with 167, is tops amongst his teammates with 190 hits, and is averaging 18:22 of ice time per night.

"How do we handle him? Just let his brother play against him," chuckled Ward when asked about containing the 20-year-old.

"We understand what he brings to the table. We're not too worried about any individual people, as we never are, we just want to make sure that we put a good team game on the ice. There's not easy dates in this league. Every team in this league is a good team.

"For us, we have hard games every night and we understand that we want to focus on what our process is in order to be successful. We know what players on the other team are potentially going to bring and we just make sure when we're on the ice ... we're taking away time and space from them. If we can do that, we feel that we can have a chance to be successful."

While Saturday's game will be final game between the two clubs this season, the brothers will be reunited in just a few days. Matthew will be off to his hometown of St. Louis for his first NHL All-Star appearance, alongside Mark Giordano and David Rittich, and Brady will forego taking a lengthy holiday during the Senators' bye week to support his brother during this milestone moment in his career.

"He could easily go on a little 8-10 day vacation but he's shortening it down because he wants to come home and support me, be a part of a fun weekend. I'm not sure if there's anywhere in the world that's going to be more fun than St. Louis next weekend to be honest. I know he wants to be a part of it."

Given the brothers stellar play with their respective clubs, there's no doubt they will be NHL All-Stars together in the near future.

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