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Flames could have different personnel on second powerplay unit tonight vs. Avs

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick /

The personnel, the formation, and the strategy behind it - all of it is brand new.

Embracing the 'shooter's mentality' that players often wax on about, the Flames' newly assembled second powerplay structure has been devised to open up seams and get pucks through.

Based on what was deployed at the morning skate Wednesday, expect the Flames to roll out the following in this evening's matchup against the Colorado Avalanche:

Austin Czarnik - James Neal - Mark Jankowski

TJ Brodie - Rasmus Andersson

With Czarnik and Jankowski working the half walls, Neal supplying the menacing net-front presence, and the two big shots in Brodie and Andersson up top, it's an old-school configuration that simply isn't used much anymore.

But that fundamental mindset is one the Flames need to operate with right now as the second unit looks to support the sharp-shooting, No.-1 outfit.

"It's definitely going to be a different set that we've had previously," Czarnik, who's coming off one of his best games of the season Monday, said following a brief tune-up at the Scotiabank Saddledome. "We need to create something. I feel like we haven't been able to create that much, and haven't been as effective of late. That's what they call us in to do. Get some shots and go to the net."

Simplicity is key.

It's been the opposite too often of late, and the new group of five is excited to get a chance to help turn the tide and give their team a boost on the scoresheet.

As electrifying as Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm and Sean Monahan have been, the need for secondary scoring never dissipates in this league - especially at this time of year when, if the past is any indication, the games tighten up.

"Everybody needs to be going if we want to continue on this path," Czarnik said. "We feel it. We want to be counted on to produce. Everyone does.

"With this unit, we have a net-front presence and have two on the wings that can hit seams, and then obviously two guys up top that can really hammer it. It's going to be a shooter's powerplay tonight and hopefully we'll be effective. We've only worked on it for a few minutes right there, but hopefully we can get clicking right away tonight and be solid."

Head coach Bill Peters didn't fully commit to the new design, did say it was a "good opportunity" for the new players.

"We can also go back to the Backlund unit at anytime also," he said "They've had lots of reps."

Czarnik has been a regular on the second powerplay unit in the games he's played this year.

Ditto Neal.

The addition of Jankowski, Brodie and Andersson, though, is a fresh look altogether.

A back-to-basics approach.

And a carrot for some of the guys that have been hot lately.

"It's a great opportunity for me, and a great opportunity for all of us that are in there," said Andersson, who's getting his first look on a powerplay at the NHL level. "Everyone wants an opportunity like this. It's important that we make the most of it.

"We want to try and get a lot of pucks on net and with that five-man setup that we have. We're going to try and spread them around a little bit and open up some seams. From there, we have to keep it simple and get pucks on net.

"It might sound overly simple, but maybe that's the key to it all."

Andersson, 22, has a notable offensive pedigree, barreling along at nearly a point-per-game clip in his two seasons with the OHL's Barrie Colts, before putting up nine goals and 39 points last year with the Flames' AHL affiliate, the Stockton Heat.

This year, he has one goal and three helpers in 41 games, but has been a fixture on offence late in games when the Flames needed a goal.

His first point came in career game No. 18, firing from the right point and having it tipped home by Matthew Tkachuk, sending their game against the defending Cup champs to overtime and securing a valuable single point in late October.

His first goal, on a similar play, gunning a 45-foot slapper past Flyers goalie Anthony Stolarz to ignite a remarkable, unconscionable third-period comeback on Dec. 12.

If it's simply a matter of deployment when it comes to the youngster's offensive output, consider this a darn-good steppingstone for the rest of the campaign.

"He has that offence in him, for sure," Peters said. "He's done it before at the American League level, the OHL when he was younger, and he'll do it here. Whether it's tonight or the rest of this year, or next year at the NHL level also. He's got real good offensive upside and we're real excited about him and tapping into that at some point.

"It's another thing we can do to get him more involved in the game."

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