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LINEUP NOTES - 27.01.20

A quick look at the forward lines used during Monday's practice at the 'Dome

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick /

As an NHL head coach, you're never, truly, 'off.'

It's impossible to be, mid-season, like that.

Turns out, Geoff Ward was a busy man during the bye week, spending plenty of time at the rink devising a plan for the most critical part of the season.

"Don't read too much into it," Ward laughed, after unveiling new forward line combinations at Monday's practice.

Sorry, coach. Can't help it.

The biggest and most obvious change came on the second line where Derek Ryan - who's played largely in a bottom-six role this year - was promoted to centre Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.

While nothing has been confirmed for Tuesday's tilt with the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues, Ryan's versatility has given the coach confidence this trio can work.

"The one thing about Derek Ryan is that we feel he can play anywhere in our lineup," Ward said. "We feel he can play centre, he can play left wing, he can play right wing - and he can probably play defence and goal if we wanted him to. He's versatile and he'll play anywhere you want him."

For more from the coach's dry-erase board, here are the full forward lines used during Monday's workout:

Matthew Tkachuk - Elias Lindholm - Andrew Mangiapane
Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Derek Ryan
Milan Lucic - Mikael Backlund - Dillon Dube
Sam Bennett - Mark Jankowski - Tobias Rieder

Extras: Zac Rinaldo, Buddy Robinson

(The D pairs were all mixed up, with all seven blueliners involved in every rotation.)

While Robinson - who was recalled from the Stockton Heat on Sunday - did not get a regular turn during rush drills, he could still make his Flames debut tomorrow night.

The 6-foot-6, 225-lb. winger has had a great season with the Heat, leading the team with 16 goals and sitting fourth overall in team scoring with 30 points in 40 games.

"Before you go out and make deals, I think it's good to know what you have in the minors, because if you've got a guy that's playing well that proves that he can play, then maybe you don't need to make that deal," Ward said. "Maybe you've already got that deal made.

"I'm not trying to speak to what (Brad Treliving) is doing or what's going on there, but from a coaching standpoint, I know that it makes sense to know exactly what you have available to you."

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