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Gulutzan shakes up lines in search of balance

The Flames coach is making number of moves in the forward ranks and defensive pairs for tonight's game in Minnesota

by Jason Johnson @Jay__Jo / CalgaryFlames.com

SAINT PAUL, MN -- They say if it ain't broke don't fix it.

In the case of the Calgary Flames, mired in a three-game skid, a fix is needed and that's what coach Glen Gulutzan is trying to do.

Calgary is facing a very good Minnesota Wild team tonight at Xcel Energy Center that is swimming in depth, and Gulutzan has overhauled his lineup in search of some consistency throughout the lineup.

Forward Sam Bennett, who has patrolled the ice as a centreman all season, is set to move over to the wing on a line with Matt Stajan and Alex Chaisson.

Stajan has been one of the most consistent forwards to date

"We felt that Staj has played very well and going into a team like Minnesota," Gulutzan said Tuesday morning in Minnesota. " "They've only given up 20 five-on-five goals in 14 games so we know what kind of game [to expect], it's a grinding game.

"We talked about 50-50 hockey over the last couple of days and being better at managing the puck and being comfortable at playing 50-50 hockey, because that's what the NHL is and then relying a little bit on your specialty teams."

"Putting that group together, we think that gives us veteran presence with Benny and a line, with Chaisser on the side, they can play low and play a real grinding game against Minnesota."

Video: Flames coach talks lineup changes and facing the Wild

Matthew Tkachuk will make his way back into the lineup after a two-game absence and will reconvene in his regular spot alongside Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik.

Troy Brouwer will line up on the top trio with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau and it looks like Garnet Hathaway, who was summoned from the Stockton Heat on Saturday, will get into his first action of the season, flanking Freddie Hamilton and Micheal Ferland.

The forwards aren't the only part of the Flames that will get a makeover. The blueline will also see a number of changes, most notably Dougie Hamilton being paired up with captain Mark Giordano.

"For me, it's about balance," Gulutzan explained. "We've played Gio and Brodie together quite a bit and they can handle heavy minutes. But the reality is you can't get the matchups every night you want so you have more veteran presence in the lineup tonight with one young guy and we need balance from all the pairs.

"I'm a big fan of righty-lefty pairs, I think it helps you spread the ice out, helps you play quicker. Spreads the ice out in the offensive zone, through the neutral zone."

Hamilton leads the Flames this season in scoring among defenceman with two goals and six points in 16 games. Giordano hasn't registered a point in 9 straight games.

"He's obviously a really good player so hopefully we have some chemistry together and have a really good game and help the team try to win," Hamilton said. "Definitely with Gio he is a good all-around player and doesn't really have many weaknesses.

"I'll just try to compliment him and make him better in a way and hopefully we can do that."

"Our forward lines are different as well. When you're not winning you have to try different things and change something. Minnesota is a good team, obviously.

"We're going to have to play well tonight and hopefully we can do that and get on a roll again."

TJ Brodie will skate with Dennis Wideman tonight in Minnesota and Brett Kulak will lineup with Deryk Engelland as the third pairing. 

Chad Johnson will make his 6th start in goal for the Flames tonight.

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