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Gulutzan to make lineup changes Saturday

The Flames will have a different look to their forward lines and defence pairings tonight

by Torie Peterson @ToriePeterson /

CALGARY, AB -- The Calgary Flames will be making a few lineup changes ahead of their battle with the St. Louis Blues tonight.

Rookie Matthew Tkachuk will be a healthy scratch, a move that head coach Glen Gulutzan had in mind for quite some time. 

"With any young guy ... watching a little bit, it helps. We always understand the connection he has to St. Louis. It's good for young guys to watch, to reflect, get a breath, and get some training in.

"This was part of a plan that we've had going for awhile back."

Tkachuk suited up for the opening five games of the season, primarily playing alongside Sam Bennett and Troy Brouwer and averaging 11:55 of ice time. He scored his first NHL goal this past Tuesday in the Flames' 4-3 overtime victory over the Buffalo Sabres.

The progression in Tkachuk's game has been steady but having him observe tonight's tilt is another step in his evolution as a player.

The decision, Gulutzan emphasized, isn't performance-based.

"We had good video dialogue with him today and we'll have some more for him. Conny's talking to him. He's getting a development program a little bit for himself," Gulutzan explained.

"Any of these young guys ... it's a hard league and it's good sometimes for them to look, sit back and watch the game and then come back in and be even better.

"We (think) he's been good but it's part of the process."

With Tkachuk out, it opens the door for Freddie Hamilton. The forward has been a healthy scratch in the first five games of the season and is eagerly awaiting puck-drop this evening.

"I'm in tonight, and I'm really excited. Just to watch the first five games, the excitement as built up more and more, trying to get in ... I'm really excited to finally get out there with the guys."

Hamilton, acquired last season from the Colorado Avalanche, played in four games with the Flames in 2015-16, recording one goal and two points. He dressed for 62 games with the Stockton Heat of the American Hockey League last season, scoring 18 goals and 43 points.

"I think I've got to try to provide some energy. Play a good two-way game. Skate. Hit. Try to do the little things," Hamilton said. "The team has been going good. We're almost there and I'm just going to try to help out any way I can."

On defence, Dennis Wideman is expected to draw back into the lineup with Brett Kulak sitting as a healthy scratch. Wideman has the Flames lone power play goal this season and played a prominent role in this morning's special teams drills.

During this morning's skate, the defence pairings had been shuffled as well. Mark Giordano was skating alongside Wideman, TJ Brodie was partnered up with Dougie Hamilton and Jyrki Jokipakka was paired with Deryk Engelland.

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