It’s special coming back and playing in New Jersey. I’ve got a lot of family and friends at the game tonight. - Johnny Gaudreau
NEWARK, NJ -- Trips to the Northeastern United States often feel like home games for Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau.
The sophomore winger, who hails from Carneys Point, NJ, always has plenty of support in the stands when the Flames make trips out east.
His parents, Guy and Jane, always make the trek to see their son play live and Gaudreau's sisters, brother-in-law, niece, and many of his friends also make sure they have tickets to Calgary's games down the eastern seaboard. His brother, Matt, also tries to see as many games as he can fit in his schedule. Like his older brother did, Matt plays for the Boston College Eagles in the NCAA.
Tonight, the usual suspects will be in attendance, ready to cheer on Gaudreau and the Flames at the Prudential Center in Newark.
"It’s special coming back and playing in New Jersey," Gaudreau said after the Flames morning skate. "I’ve got a lot of family and friends at the game tonight. We only get to come out to the east coast and play close to home twice a year when we play New Jersey and Philly, so it’s exciting."
This will be Gaudreau's second appearance at the Prudential Center. In his 64-point rookie campaign, he had two shots on net and 20:00 of ice time in the Flames 3-1 victory over the Devils on Feb. 25.
The 22-year-old hasn't experienced the so-called sophomore slump. He currently leads the Flames in scoring with 19 goals and 43 points and leads all Calgary skaters with 116 shots on net.
He has been particularly dominant at the Scotiabank Saddledome. He is third in the NHL in home points with 33, one point shy of second place Jamie Benn and four points away from leader Patrick Kane.
"He’s a little tiger," Flames coach Bob Hartley raved. "He has very high expectations of himself. He’s on the puck, he wants to contribute. On the bench, it’s quite the treat to watch him.
"Whether it’s going on the power play, a regular shift, a 3-on-3 (shift), you can see sparks in his eyes and you can’t teach that. He was raised in a very good way off the ice and on the ice. He doesn’t accept mediocre performances. We always hear about Johnny Gaudreau the great playmaker, the shifty player, but he takes pride in his entire game. That’s what makes him special. He takes pride in the game."
Watching Gaudreau's progression over the past season and a half has been a treat for Hartley, who was watched all areas of his game develop at a rapid pace.
"The only disappointment is that he’s done growing, so he won’t get much taller," Hartley chuckled. "We have to put up with this. He loves to be at the rink, you watch him practice, he’s practicing for the right reasons.
"Hockey is a game and he wants to be the best. That’s special for him."