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PROJECTED LINEUP - FLAMES VS. SABRES

Flames to unveil new forward lines in tonight's clash with Sabres

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

The shake-up is now official.

The Flames will much different look to their forward lines as they host the Buffalo Sabres tonight in the second of a three-game homestand (7 p.m., Sportsnet West; Sportsnet 960 THE FAN).

The Flames held an optional morning skate Thursday and no lines were used with only half of the regular participants taking part, but interim head coach Geoff Ward confirmed the new units during a pre-game gab session with the media:


FORWARDS

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

 

DEFENCE

Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie
Noah Hanifin - Travis Hamonic
Oliver Kylington - Rasmus Andersson

 

GOALTENDERS

David Rittich will make his league-leading 24th start, as he looks to improve on his 12-7-4 record, .915 save percentage and 2.68 goals-against average.

Cam Talbot will back up.


"We liked a lot of the things that we saw," Ward said of the forward combos during the past two days of practice. "Now we're going to put them in a game and see how they do.

"Sometimes new energy does things. ... If it can spark our team to play harder and play with more energy, then it's probably been a good move for us. But we're not looking at one or two guys in our lineup. We're looking at ways to score more goals throughout our lineup."

While all four units offer something a bit different than the previous concoctions, Ward is especially eager to what the Lucic-Ryan-Gaudreau trio can produce.

"Looch has always had his most success with a right-handed centre," Ward observed. "He played in Boston with (David) Krejci. A right-handed centre makes him a more effective player because the right-shot centre puts it into his corner, and he can get in there on his forehand, bang around, recover pucks. It also takes a little bit of the focus away from Johnny - hides him from reads, and gives him a chance to get the puck back.

"The other benefit is that Looch does a good job saving pucks in the offensive zone, and that may give us the opportunity to give Johnny the puck a bit more in the O zone. For us, that's a good thing.

"We like the potential of the three guys and tonight we'll see it in game action for the first time."

Lucic - who was named the second star after scoring an assist in last Saturday's win over the Ottawa Senators - is equally excited about the opportunity.

He and Ryan have built some good chemistry over the past few games, and have been one of the Flames' top trios in terms of possession (53.43%) and manufacturing scoring chances (51.02% in high-danger areas) this year.

Gaudreau's addition certainly adds a new element that the big man feels will benefit will three.

"He's a highly skilled player who can make things happen," Lucic said. "For me and Derek, we've got to keep doing what we've been doing the last couple games. For myself and Johnny, I feel like we're both really close to breaking through, and there's no better way to break through than coming together on the same line and doing that.

"I think we have a little bit of everything on this line.

"We've got to come out there, play with that excitement and do what we do best.

In terms in distributing ice time with the new combos in mind, Ward prefers not to label his forwards lines, 1 through 4.

"It's about who's going," he said.

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