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Monahan inching closer to pre-season debut

by Aaron Vickers @AAVickers /

CALGARY, AB -- Sean Monahan got the yellow off his back.

Monahan shrugged off the yellow non-contact jersey worn in his first skate with teammates on Sunday, and battled alongside the group in a white sweater Tuesday.

The 21-year-old is close.

"I feel good," Monahan said. "It felt good to get in the first real skate with the team and it felt good out there. We're just taking it day-by-day and we're just going to go from there. To get back in there felt good. Just to get back on the ice with the guys feels good. That's what you work for all summer.

"I'm happy to be out there and feel the way I feel today.

"I feel ready to go. I feel good. I've been skating hard with (assistant coach Martin Gelinas). We've been doing a lot of work and I've been doing a lot of work in the gym. 

"I feel strong and I feel confident right now."

Monahan has missed most of training camp after sustaining a back strain while preparing for the World Cup of Hockey 2016 last month. The injury forced him to withdraw from representing Team North America, and has limited his participation in Flames camp.

But progress this week has Calgary coach Glen Gulutzan optimistic that his No. 1 centre is nearing 100 percent, and nearing a pre-season debut.

"He's graduated to that battling and regular practice. No different-coloured jersey," Gulutzan said. "We'll see how he is after. We'll see how it is tomorrow morning and we'll make our read from there. If everything goes well maybe he can go Thursday. I said this before. If not, if there's anything, we'll just keep going without the game and just keep practicing him until we play." 

The Flames have two pre-season games remaining: Wednesday against the Arizona Coyotes at Scotiabank Saddledome, and Thursday against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena.

It's not dire, Monahan suggested, to skate in either.

"I wouldn't say it's critical," Monahan said. "It would be nice just to get the timing and stuff like that back. At the end of the day you get out there one shift and you're back in it. It would be nice, but at the end of the day it's not the end of the world.

"There's no timeline right now. We're taking it day-by-day. The goal is to get into a game before the season starts. If it's Wednesday or if it's Thursday doesn't matter to me. We'll talk to the training staff and go from there. "

Monahan, who had a NHL career-high 63 points (27 goals, 36 assists) in 81 games last season, isn't going to be rushed.

And there's no concern it'll take Monahan to get up to top speed when deemed ready to go.      

"It's too early after just one practice to go in," Gulutzan said. "The only thing different with [Monahan] is you've got to understand that he was getting ramped up to play. He was ahead of where other guys were in September. He was getting prepared for the Worlds. He was a little ahead as far as skating, and then he had the setback.

"It shouldn't be as long for him to get up to speed again."

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