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Flames tinker with top line in search of spark

Troy Brouwer is set to play alongside Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan on Thursday

by Aaron Vickers @AAVickers /

CALGARY, AB -- Things not going quite right?

Shuffle them up.

That's the plan from Calgary Flames coach Glen Gulutzan.

And that's why he'll add Troy Brouwer to his top line alongside Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday in the hopes the trio can find a spark for a team seeking its first win in five games.

"At times when things aren't going well you try and mix things up," Monahan said. "Troy's a proven player in this league that can be successful, so we have to find some chemistry right from the drop of the puck tomorrow.

"When things aren't working well … obviously it's not an easy league. Sometimes things don't go your way. When that happens you have to work hard. When you mix lines around sometimes that helps. Tomorrow will be a fresh start."

Brouwer will replace Alex Chiasson on the top line for the Flames, who have lost four straight games, and six of the past seven.

"We're just going to try to find some chemistry and try to get things going," Gaudreau said. "We haven't been creating too much offence. Things change in the lineup.

"We've got to go with it."

Calgary has been outscored 24-8 in six games in the month of November.

Gaudreau has two goals and three points in his past seven games dating back to October.

Monahan hasn't scored, and has two assists in the same span.

It's uncharacteristic of the pair that combined for 57 goals and 141 points to pace the Flames in scoring last season.

"I've been able to play with some pretty good players in my career, so I'm not too worried about having to play with these guys," said Brouwer, who has four goals and seven points this season. "You just go out there and hopefully the three of us will fit well together right away. We had some good shifts at the end of last game. I thought we did a good job. As long as we trust each other right away we'll be fine."

That short stint came at the tail end of a 4-1 loss against the New York Rangers.

It'll help ease the transition.

Some work together on the power play is beneficial, too.

And for Brouwer, who signed a four-year contract with Calgary on July 1st, getting to know the pair has helped him prep, too.

"Now that I've been around for a couple months you get to know a little bit more the players they are and the tendencies they do even though you aren't on the same line," Brouwer said. "You're still watching day-in and day-out. Hopefully there will be some familiarity and some good trust.

"I thought [Chiasson] did a really good job on that line providing support for them and getting in and getting recoveries and retrievals and that's the same thing I want to do … finish my checks, create space, get as many retrievals for them as I can so they can do what they do."

It's exactly what Monahan and Gaudreau expect Brouwer to bring to the line.

"He's a big, strong, physical presence for our line," Gaudreau said. "He's good down low with the puck and can retrieve pucks pretty well. He's got some skill to him, too. He's like the whole package here so it's good to get him on our line for a little bit."

"You know what you're going to get," Monahan added. "He's a pretty consistent player. He does his job well. He skates well. He's physical. He can shoot the puck. He brings a lot to the table. Tomorrow's going to be pretty exciting as far as getting going here."

And Gulutzan?

He expects his club to get a boost from all three.

"They're going to have to play against top guys in the league," he said. "[Mikael Backlund]'s line has done a good job of that for us. They're going to have to come in and do the same thing. They're three of our top players there. [Brouwer] can give them a good veteran presence on the right wing too.

"I thought [Chiasson] did a wonderful job there.

"But when you lose four in a row you have to make some changes."

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