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Monahan set for pre-season debut

Sean Monahan will play in tonight's exhibition game in Vancouver

by Aaron Vickers @AAVickers / CalgaryFlames.com

CALGARY, AB -- The last skate of the pre-season will double as the first spin for centre Sean Monahan.

Monahan will make his preseason debut when the Calgary Flames conclude their exhibition schedule against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on Thursday.

He has yet to play because of a back strain sustained in training in September.

"It's exciting," Monahan said. "I wanted to play earlier but it's an injury you don't want to rush or anything like that. I feel confident and strong and I'm ready to go. I look forward to it. Obviously you want to get out there and get back in the motion, and as a centerman there's a lot of details in the game that go into it … just the timing and being in the right spots at the right time.

"It'll take a little bit. I'm just looking forward to getting that going."

The injury forced Monahan to withdraw from representing Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey 2016, and had limited his participation in Flames camp.

"I wasn't comfortable … he's had three skates, really … I wasn't comfortable just after two that he could go in and play a game," Calgary coach Glen Gulutzan said. "Now it's time to put him in a game. I think they're dressing a pretty full lineup so it'll be a good game for him.

"We'll manage his minutes a little bit tonight. We won't kill him with his minutes. We just want to make sure he gets into some game battles. He's had the practice battles for two straight days. His conditioning is good. His health is good. Now we want to get him into some game-tested stuff. They've got two pretty good players over there that will be grinding down low.

"That'll be good for Mony."

Monahan, who had an NHL career-high 63 points (27 goals, 36 assists) in 2015-16, has missed nine games in his first three years, and has played 81 games in each of the past two seasons.

Sitting out hasn't been a familiar feeling for Monahan.

Nor easy.

But he's happy to be back.

"I'm 21 … all you want to do is play," Monahan said. "It's frustrating not being able to play, but at the same time it's something I didn't want to be nagging with all year. We did the right thing and right now I feel great.

"Hockey … a lot of it is mental. The way you think the game is usually how you perform. Tonight is going to be a test out there for me. I'll see how I feel. Right now I feel good. When I get out there I'm going to focus on the little things and try to grow from there.

"It's kind of a tryout and getting your feet wet again. You're trying to make an impression. We have a new staff. After tonight we're coming up to the first game of the regular season. That first game is a really big game. All those games playing against the teams in our conference are huge. This is a time where we've got to get together as a team and find a way to grow and continue to get better."

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