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FERLAND'S STRONG PLAY LEADS TO ELEVATED ROLE

A promotion to the first line led to one of Micheal Ferland's best games of the season

by TORIE PETERSON @ToriePeterson / CalgaryFlames.com

Glen Gulutzan had one message for Micheal Ferland ahead of his promotion to the top line on Tuesday night.

Don't change a thing.

The Flames' bench boss had been impressed with the winger's tenacious play in recent weeks and had a hunch his north-south style of play would work well with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.

His instincts proved correct, with Ferland netting two goals in the 6-5 overtime win over the Nashville Predators on Tuesday.

"I like the way he was going. If you look at his games prior, he was at the net with some energy. He was making plays. He was physical. We saw the hit on Loui Eriksson (in Vancouver) and he was physical throughout his games.

"So he had a lot of little details in his game. I thought he had jump in his step, ever since he came back from the break. I thought he could give them a little energy. Obviously I didn't think he'd plot two right away but he has that ability. Hopefully he can keep it going."

Prior to Ferland earning that leap up the first line, he had discussions with the coaching staff as to what he needed to do in order to elevate his game in the second half of the season.

Known as a power forward who could put up plenty of points during his junior days, he hasn't gained a level of consistency when it comes to offence in the NHL. In 153 regular season skates, he has 16 goals and 40 points and has put up points in bunches throughout his time in the NHL.

With those offensive flashes in mind, Gulutzan asked the 24-year-old to simplify his game a bit.

Don't try to overdo it and force plays.

Maximize one of his strongest assets and just shoot the puck.

"I did tell him Johnny and Mony like assists," Gulutzan chuckled. "It's fine for him to shoot it into the net ... he's got a great shot. You guys see him shoot the puck. He can really shoot it.

"The one thing that we talked about it, it was not long ago - probably two, three weeks ago, where he had opportunities to shoot the puck and he didn't. He was trying to make a pass. I think it was a week after that, we told him 'We want you to shoot the puck' in practice.

"We don't want you to be a passer. We want you to get yourself in a shoot position at all times. Hey, if they present themselves, pass it. But we would like you to shoot it.

"I think it was two or three games after that, he got a two-on-one and just put one in.

"That's what I asked him to do yesterday. Play his game, shoot the puck, be physical. That's what those guys need. They don't need you to play a dangling type game. They need what you bring on a nightly basis. He did that. I thought he really did a good job of that."

If Ferland wants to solidify himself as Gaudreau and Monahan's right-hand man down the stretch, he needs to stick with his game. He showed how effective he can be with the pair in Nashville and that's the message Gulutzan has put forward to him ahead of Thursday's match-up with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"He's just got to play his game. Just his game. They don't need him to do anything else outside of the norm. They can make plays.

"Ferly just needs to come in and play his game. They need him to be physical. They need him to be at the net. They need him skating on the forecheck so they can create. And they need him to finish plays when they make them. They can make high-end plays. Johnny made a couple last night and Ferly finished them off.

"That's what he needs to do. He doesn't need to get into the sauce pass, east-west game. He's got to play direct for them and that's what's going to help them the most."

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