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'HIT THE GROUND RUNNING'

Tkachuk plans to treat tonight's pre-season tilt 'like it's right in the middle of the regular season.'

by TY PILSON @typilson / CalgaryFlames.com

The final chance for vets to get reps, and hopefuls to make a lasting impression.

But the first - and only - chance, however, for Matthew Tkachuk to see game action before the regular season begins.

The Flames play their last pre-season tilt tonight when they host the Oilers for a 7 p.m. tilt (click here for tickets), one closing tune-up before they open the campaign for real Thursday in Denver against the Avs.

 

Video: "I gotta hit the ground running"

Still, don't expect Tkachuk - who signed a new deal with the team on Tuesday and returned to the fold - to slowly slip back into the pool.

Given his game and tenacious nature on the ice, it'll be more like a cannonball.

"I just have to treat it like it's right in the middle of the regular season," said Tkachuk after the morning skate, "and hit the ground running here. Don't ease into the game at all - just get right after it and play like I normally do. That's the best way I'll catch up."

The left-winger - one third of the highly regarded 3M line along with centre Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik - was asked if he was feeling excited, or nervous, or both.

"Just excitement, " he answered with a wide grin. "There's no nerves. 

"I've been working hard the past few weeks so I'm not worried about anything to that extent, but maybe the timing a little bit. Hopefully it takes me just a few shifts and I'm right back into it."

Some players, it was noted, can feel pressure to 'do too much' when they come back after signing a new deal and that - combined with the short runway till the regular season starts - could be seen by some to heap extra pressure on the 21-year-old's shoulders.

Not so at all.

"I don't think so," said Tkachuk. "I think I'm just going to go out there and play the same way that I've done the past three years, and that isn't trying too much, you know, or forcing things - it's just playing my game. I think if I go in there and play the exact same way I've been my whole life and not dip my toe in, and play aggressive and assert myself in the game fast, it'll be good." 

Tkachuk said his time on the ice so far this week has gone a long way to kicking off the little mud that may have built up on his tires. 

"They're great," he explained. "They've been awesome. Two practices and a pre-game skate and here we are. It goes by fast. And we're already back in the swing of things and I couldn't be happier to play in front of these fans tonight and get one pre-season game before the real thing stars next Thursday." 

Making sure his young star gets ample ice time will be a priority tonight, said head coach Bill Peters.

"I hope to get him up to 17 or 18 minutes," he explained. "I just need him to get out and play and get involved in the game. I don't think there's going to be any issues. You know he's a competitive guy and he's going to be right in the heart of the game. I expect that to be early and then I gotta make sure he gets enough ice time.

 

Video: "He'll be right in the heart of the game"

 

THEY SAID IT:

PETERS ON TONIGHT'S TILT

"There's still evaluation going on but it's real close to being our regular-season lineup so I expect a good effort."

 

PETERS ON BENNETT PLAYING CENTRE

"The versatility of Benny, right. He can play up and down the lineup, he can play three or four positions. We had some different options and we wanted to give him a look there. With no Doc, he's coming back, a little bit sick, but err on the side of caution there with him and allow Benny to play in the middle. So, good opportunity for him there."

 

MILAN LUCIC ON FACING HIS OLD TEAM

"You know - Battle of Alberta. Regardless of the trade, the rivalry tends to ramp it up. So, excited about it. You got some buddies on the other side but once the puck drops, it doesn't really matter - you get back to playing hockey. But most importantly, I think, it's the last tuneup for the group; last chance for everyone to feel good about their game individually and I think more importantly feel good about our game as a team. So, that's the main focus about tonight."

 

SEAN MONAHAN ON LINEMATE ELIAS LINDHOLM 

"I didn't know who Lindy was last year. We played two games in China a little bit together and ended up starting the season together. I think our chemistry started to grow, obviously, as the season went on and this year, just in practice, everything is natural, it's instinct. We know where each other are gonna be, we know how we play, we know how guys fill lanes and when they want the puck and stuff like that, so I mean having that chemistry already is huge going into the year."

 

TOBIAS RIEDER ON REDISCOVERING HIS OFFENSIVE TOUCH

"It's always been there - I did it early on in my career, why would it just go away? The belief is always there and I know what I can do, I know I can do it, now I gotta show it."

 

Video: "The rivalry tends to ramp it up"

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