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JOHNNY EYES BREAKOUT

Gaudreau says he's getting 'looks,' just needs to capitalize during Flames final playoff push

by GEORGE JOHNSON @georgejohnsonCH / calgaryflames.com

The saying is as traditional as 'stitched up and back the next shift', as careworn, as tried-and-true as 'off the glass and out.'

In the homestretch of any season it's a staple : Your singers gotta sing and your dancers gotta dance if it's a hit show you're after.

Making Johnny Gaudreau the Pavarotti, the Sinatra, the Springsteen, of the Flames.

The guy with the golden pipes.

Maybe the song hasn't quite been what anyone had anticipated when Johnny set out on tour in early October but there are still 24 concert dates remaining to clear his throat, find his voice and leave the audience clamouring for encore after encore.

"Looking back,'' Gaudreau was reflecting nearing lunchtime Monday, as he and his mates hustled out of the Scotiabank Saddleome to board a charter flight bound for Music City, USA, "last season was more successful personally.

"But I'd much rather be in the position we're in today, with the team we have today, in the position we are today, than last season. Last season I don't even know where we were at in the standings.

"Players go through (slumps). I'm getting chances, had a couple nice looks last game, me, Steeger and Monny. Just couldn't capitalize. Gotta go from there.

"All I can ask for is getting the looks. If I'm getting looks, I can't complain. I just gotta find the net.

"I can be an important player the last 20 games here, make a big push to help my team succeed as much as possible.

"Gotta get the puck in deep, make some plays, get it to the points and try to find a greasy goal.

"I think my next one won't be pretty it would just be nice to get it out of the way."

Video: Gaudreau on finding the back of the net more often

Not that Gaudreau's by his lonesome in pushing for increased production but a solitary snipe over the most recent 19 games isn't nearly up to his two-season standard.

"It's a tough on him,'' says his boss, Glen Gulutzan. "Not on the team so much. On him. He's a competitive guy. You guys have been around here enough to know. He wants to contribute.

"And he will.

"When you get the looks, they'll go in when you're a player of his calibre."

The positive news is that in spite of that the Flames continue to hang doggedly stubborn in their bid for a wildcard post-season berth here out the West.

 So when little No. 13 does get going and re-establish his mojo …

Gulutzan, for one, is expecting the dam to burst any night now.

"We know his shots and chances are at the same level they've always been,'' reminds the coach. "His shooting percentage is down.

"Maybe one or two off someone's skate can set him on fire.

"He's just gotta keep shooting the puck, doing his thing and they'll go in. We're hoping they'll go in at the right time for us because we're in a prime spot."

Skipper Mark Giordano is quick to point out that all post-season contenders are in the batten-down-the-hatches mode from now to the finish.

"So it's gotta be everyone,'' he argued. "Myself, too. We've got to rely on each other to create goals. FroM the D-men's point of view, we've got to put more pucks on net, put more through.

"Up front, with the type of players we have up front, I know we'll get going, get rolling.

"Most games down the stretch are not going to be high scoring anyway. You've got to create goals by being at the net, banging home some rebounds, a powerplay goal here or there is going to be huge.

"When you score goals, capitalize on opportunities, is going to be the difference. Everything tightens up.

"So it's not just forwards. It's not just D. It's everyone, combined."

Tuesday at Bridgestone Arena, the Flames commence their longest remaining road swing - which also takes in stops at Tampa, Florida and Carolina.

The opening stop, given the proximity of the two combatants, needs no extra hype.

"It's a four-point game against a team two points ahead of us and I think they have a game in hand,'' reminds Giordano.

"Going (down) the stretch we have a lot of games against teams around us. At the end of the day we play L.A. a bunch of times, and Nashville. These games are going to dictate who gets in and who doesn't.

"It's a fun time to play."

So much of the Flames' hopes rest on resiliency, on not straying from the blueprint no matter what transpires, good or bad.

Saturday at Vancouver, they steadfastly refused the temptation to fall out of structure following a weird opening goal by the Canucks - Alex Edler's shot dipping a good foot, dropping off the edge of a tabletop a la an R.A. Dickey knuckleball - and stuck with the gameplan to score with five seconds remaining in regulation and pull a point out of a massive inter-divisional collision.

"Last game was a perfect example of our sticking to it,'' agrees Giordano. "If we would've started playing open or loose (at 1-0 Van), they could've gone up two or three easily.

"And then …

"That's got to be a lesson for us. The thing about last game is yeah we tied it and got a point but we probably deserved a couple.

"If we keep playing that way, we'll be alright."

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