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GAUDREAU GAINING CONFIDENCE

After the NHL All-Star Weekend, the winger is ready for the second half of the season

by AARON VICKERS @AAVickers / CalgaryFlames.com

It was the break from hockey Johnny Gaudreau needed.

Go out, have fun.

Score some goals.

Bring back some of that all-star swagger.

"I never want to think of myself as one of the best players in the world…you don't want to get that mindset," said Gaudreau, who represented the Calgary Flames at the NHL All-Star Game for a third consecutive year.

"But it was great to be a part of that weekend and be around all those guys…getting to play against Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin. Those are guys that when I was younger I was watching. It's great. 

"It builds a little bit of confidence. 

"You feel like you belong there."

He does, of course. 

But even in a season that's featured as many downs as ups, Gaudreau welcomed the distraction from the day-to-day grind of the National Hockey League season.

"Honestly, it is a little time away from hockey," Gaudreau said. "You're not so serious about hockey at the time. You're just having fun with it.

"You're spending time with family. You're spending time with friends. For me, 3-on-3 … it's not serious. It's fun. That's pickup hockey for me. That's fun. It wasn't very serious for me at all.

"I enjoy those weekends.

"I think any chance you get to play with 35, 40 of the best players in the world you take that offer up as quick as possible. I know when I look back on my three years going to them, each year it's more and more special.

"The experiences are great. 

"It's a weekend you can't pass up."

And a weekend that could be the shot in the arm that Calgary's leading scorer from a year ago needs. 

Gaudreau, who paced the Flames in goals (30) and assists (48) and was tied for sixth in the NHL with 78 points last season, has a share of third among Flames scorers with 31 points in 42 games.

He snapped an 11-game goal drought with the overtime winner at the Ottawa Senators to cap a two-point night and help Calgary halt a four-game losing skid.

Prior to the dry spell he netted three goals in four games, and dipping back even further rekindles Gaudreau's eight-game point streak that saw the dynamic 23-year-old net three goals and 12 points largely collected around his return from a broken finger sustained in mid-November.

But he had two goals in the 13 games to start the year too, showing it's been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for Gaudreau at times this season.

His coach hopes that the Salem, NJ native, fresh off a weekend with hockey's elite, is on the upswing.

"What you hope is he realizes he goes in with the league's best and realizes 'I'm one of them,'" Glen Gulutzan said. "Confidence is key for any guy in this league, no matter if you're a top player or a fourth line player.

"It's confidence.

"Hopefully that's what he comes back with."

He has.

Longtime linemate Sean Monahan already sees it. 

And Monahan knows a boost from Gaudreau is coming at the right time.

"Him going there … he's an elite player in this league," started Monahan, who also sits with Gaudreau at 31 points on the campaign. "I don't think he had any doubts about how he can before but you might lose a little confidence if you're not producing. 

"Johnny going to the All-Star Game and being around the guys that are putting up big numbers like he should be and will be will give him the extra confidence he needs.

"He's going to run with it.

"He came back in last night and I went for dinner with him. I think this is the time when guys like Johnny want to step up. This is a big part of the season here for our team. We talked about it a lot here as a team. Now you've got to step up in certain situations and me and Johnny need to be better. Right now we both feel confident.

"Obviously Johnny's going to step up here a lot and it's going to be fun to watch."

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