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FIRE AWAY!

With a big goal Tuesday, Rasmus Andersson is putting more emphasis on getting shots to the net

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

JERSEY CITY, N.J. - There was no smirk or tenting of the fingers like the rebellious Mr. Burns, but the early result a 'master plan' devised by the Flames' head coach would surely have had him thinking...

'Excellent.'

With a big goal on a big bomb from the point last night, Rasmus Andersson looks to be turning the corner when it comes to his offensive game.

And a little time paired with the captain might just have been the trick.

Andersson, who's had a mortar in his arsenal for some time, is - after "years" of convincing - is finally heeding the message.

To rip it whenever possible.

"Stubborn, stubborn, stubborn," Peters laughed, joking that Andersson has heard the 'shoot!' mantra for some time now.

"No, he's got a great shot. Hammer (Travis Hamonic) does a great job getting pucks to the net, with his head up shooting for sticks. That's something that Andy needs to continue to work on and do it in a game."

The rookie rearguard has six points (all at even strength) over his last seven games to co-lead the Flames in EV scoring alongside Mikael Backlund, who netted the game-winner last night.

Indeed, the secondary scoring is coming from all angles these days, and the Flames are full value for that's amounted to a season-long win streak, thanks in large part to Andersson's contributions.

Video: CGY@NYI: Andersson blasts slap shot past Lehner

But none of this happened by accident.     

Flipping the D pairs and giving Andersson a shot alongside Mark Giordano has clearly paid dividends. The two have played about 100 even-strength minutes off and on over the past few weeks, and the results have been positive.

Together, they've drawn a 56.73% Corsi and have out-scored the opponent 12-4.

This isn't a permanent look for the Flames' defence corps, but depending on who's in the lineup and the type of opponent they're facing, just having the option is a massive win for this first-place club.

On Tuesday, we saw why.

There was simplicity - a directness - to the Flames' offensive attack, with an emphasis on Andersson using that heavy shot of his to create chaos in front.

"Razzie's best quality is his poise with the puck and his ability to make plays," Giordano said. "Probably second is how well he can shoot it and get it to the net. You're seeing that more and more as the year goes on."

Sure, it's taken some prodding to get here - Andersson still believes he's more a pass-first type of player - but he's coming around and seeing the benefits of launching pucks, with purpose, from the blueline.

"I really don't like getting my shots blocked, so I've always tried to find a lane for a pass if I don't have that (shooting) option available," Andersson said.

"But I'd say in the last 10, 15 games, I've really tried to put a lot of shots on net. It's paid off. Like yesterday, maybe it wasn't the best shot, but it goes in anyway. If you look at the best defencemen in the league, they all shoot the puck a lot and that's what I'm trying to learn."

The fear of having a shot blocked is a very real one for a rookie defender at this level, but as Peters explains, offence doesn't just come when you force a lane and hit the net perfectly, every time.

The game has evolved and using angles, tips and net-front rebounds can do the job, all the same.

"Everyone in the '80s and '90s would bark about missing the net, but now you miss the net intentionally sometimes, short side, to get it off the end boards, or sometimes you're shooting wide for a stick," Peters explained. "The idea of hitting the net all the time isn't realistic anymore because people are in the shooting lanes, so you've got to not get your shot blocked and go from there.

"Andy's got the ability to contribute offensively and I think he will down the stretch."

With Oscar Fantenberg making his Flames debut this evening, and the Flames not wanting to go with a lefty-lefty combo on their bottom pair, TJ Brodie will go re-join Giordano on the top pair, while Andersson moves down to play with the newcomer.

But what Peters and the Flames have unearthed over the past few weeks is that their young D man is making big strides in that part of his game.

And, depending on the opponent, going back to Giordano and Andersson again in the future is an intriguing option for all.

"It's always a work-in-progress, but I feel like I'm doing the right things, taking the right steps," Andersson said.

"And I've gotta be honest. It feels pretty good to score."

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