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Hartley finds balance in four forward lines

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

CALGARY, AB -- Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley has managed to strike a balance.

Despite injuries to forwards Michael Frolik and Jiri Hudler, Hartley is happy with the rhythm he’s found among his four forward lines.

“I like the balance that we have on our lines right now,” Hartley said. “I like their compete level of the four lines and that’s why we’ve been racking up the points.”

Of late, Hartley has deployed Johnny Gaudreau with Sean Monahan and Joe Colborne. He’s placed 19-year-old Sam Bennett with Markus Granlund and Mason Raymond. He’s also used Matt Stajan and Lance Bouma with Josh Jooris, and has Mikael Backlund, Micheal Ferland and David Jones as a trio.

“Backs, Ferly, Jonesy … they’re a force out there,” Hartley said “You look at the way that Ferly and Jonesy get on the forecheck. They use their bodies. Backs has unbelievable hockey sense, real strong in the three zones.”

A spark in Ferland’s play has helped Hartley strike that balance.

And despite scoring just one goal this season, Hartley suggested Ferland shouldn’t be discouraged in his play.

“I’m very supportive of them and even as an organization we’re very supportive,” Hartley said. “Obviously you need goals to win games. Players need goals. It seems that it’s they’re fueled to feel that they are playing good but those young players are starting to understand that if you play well, if you’re giving us a chance to win games you might now score every game.

“Once you realize this there’s other parts of the game you can do very well and on Ferly his physicality, his skating, the way that he reads the game is very helpful to this group.”

Ferland’s increased role has helped minimize the impact of injuries to Frolik and Hudler.

Frolik sustained an upper-body injury a Tuesday’s 2-1 overtime win at the Nashville Predators on Dec. 15, and is showing improvement.

“[Frolik] is doing very well,” Hartley said. “You should see him in the near future on the ice with us. Probably in limited contact drills but at the same time he’s going to be with us shortly.”

Hudler’s status isn’t as clear.

He did not practice Monday and was limited to 5:26 of ice time in the 4-0 win at the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday. He was absent for Calgary’s 3-1 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday and did not practice Wednesday, either.

“Huds will be off the ice for basically a week,” Hartley said. “We have no target dates yet on his return but we’re going to make all decisions possible in his best interest to make sure he is healed at 100-percent.”

NOTES: Hartley said defenceman Deryk Engelland would draw into the lineup in place of Ladislav Smid. Goaltender Karri Ramo is expected to start his 11th consecutive game. Ramo has started 22 of 26 games since being recalled from Stockton of the American Hockey League on Oct. 29.

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