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JOHNNY EYES BREAKOUT

Gaudreau says he's getting 'looks,' just needs to capitalize during Flames final playoff push

by GEORGE JOHNSON @georgejohnsonCH / calgaryflames.com

The saying is as traditional as 'stitched up and back the next shift', as careworn, as tried-and-true as 'off the glass and out.'

In the homestretch of any season it's a staple : Your singers gotta sing and your dancers gotta dance if it's a hit show you're after.

Making Johnny Gaudreau the Pavarotti, the Sinatra, the Springsteen, of the Flames.

The guy with the golden pipes.

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STONE, FLAMES PERFECT MATCH

Former Hitman Michael Stone's return to Calgary to join defensive unit seems ideal fit

by GEORGE JOHNSON @georgejohnsonCH / calgaryflames.com

As fits go, this is anything but standard-issue/off-the-rack.

Nope, the tailoring is strictly made-to-measure.

Personally and professionally.

Returning to a home-away-from-home city you've come to know so well. Joining an organization searching for a depth upgrade at your job description, one embroiled in a playoff tussle.

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GULUTZAN HONOURS GREATS

Flames coach has photo collage of former team bench bosses put on wall outside his office

by GEORGE JOHNSON @georgejohnsonCH / calgaryflames.com

Four legends.

Clockwise, from top left: The late Badger Bob Johnson, irrepressible, ahead-of-his-time, forever scribbling in a notepad, using mountain-climbing or birdieing the 18th hole at Augusta as analogies for beating the omnipotent Oilers; the heart-on-his-sleeve Terry Crisp, who boldly went somewhere no coach hereabouts had before, or has since; the man who got the NHL coaching party started here, the peerless Al MacNeil, one of the great company soldiers in Calgary Flames' history; and the clinical, tactical Dave King, an international icon in the profession.

"Four special coaches. Four special people in the history of this organization,'' Glen Gulutzan is explaining, admiring the image he's had stencilled on the wall across from the door to head coach's office inside the dressing room inner sanctum on event level at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

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BARTKOWSKI GOING IN?

Gulutzan could skate newest defenceman against Canucks

by GEORGE JOHNSON @georgejohnsonCH / calgaryflames.com

No tentatively dipping a big toe into the shallow end of the pool for Matt Bartkowski.

No standard-issue water wings or inflatable life vest as a precautionary measure to help stay initially afloat.

Nope. Just sailing off the 3-metre board and into the churning cauldron of a turbulent playoff race.

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SEDINS STILL A THREAT

Canucks' twin terrors don't score like they used to but Flames still need to be wary of dynamic duo

by GEORGE JOHNSON @georgejohnsonCH / calgaryflames.com

Glen Gulutzan feels like a lucky guy who had the same orchestra seat at a wonderful show on a three-year run.

Mamma Mia, say, for 252 performances.

 "Honestly,'' marvels the Calgary Flames' boss, "on the bench there must've been 40 times where we either went 'Oh. My. God. Is this the NHL?'"

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KUDOS FOR ELLIOTT

Flames players and coach applaud netminder for stellar performance

by GEORGE JOHNSON @georgejohnsonCH / calgaryflames.com

It won't be hung in the Louvre or the Uffizi Gallery.

There can in the right circumstances, though, be a kind of artistry, too, in resilience, in sacrifice, in hanging tough and surmounting when things get tough. 

The colours on that palate may be predominantly shades of black and blue, not bright, brilliants reds and yellows, but there can be much to admire in the brushwork anyway.

"I was really proud of the guys,'' announced difference-maker Brian Elliott. "We weren't proud of the way we played that last game.

"We knew we were better than that. I think the guys showed it tonight."

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BARTKOWSKI JOINS FLAMES ON PTO

The 28-year-old defenceman is looking to take advantage of this opportunity and earn an NHL contract

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GeorgejohnsonCH / CalgaryFlames.com

Forty-seven months later, Matt Bartkowski has joined the Calgary Flames.

That's what's known as a long travel day.

Maybe his itinerary out of Boston that never-to-be-forgotten early spring night back in 2013 took him via, say … Cairo. On a directionally-challenged tramp steamer.

"It is,'' admitted the 28-year-old defenceman, standing in front of the painted Flames backdrop after agreeing to a professional tryout contract, "kind of ironic.

"Ever since that Iginla thing, there were mutterings they wanted me. So it's almost meant to be, that I'm finally here."

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LOOKING FORWARD

Gaudreau: "We make mistakes. I'm a young guy and I've got to learn from this."

by GEORGE JOHNSON @georgejohnsonCH / calgaryflames.com

Johnny Gaudreau faced a semi-circle of interrogators in front of his stall post-practice Tuesday outfitted in invisible firefighter's gear and toting an imaginary high-pressure hose.

The only way to extinguish any perceived brushfire before it was allowed to catch, spread and smoulder out of control.

The pocket sorcerer has become accustomed to attention.

Just not of this flame-retardant variety.

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"THERE SHOULDN'T BE ANY EXCUSES"

Flames take responsibility for falling apart in 5-0 loss to Coyotes

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GeorgejohnsonCH / CalgaryFlames.com

Dissect it, study it, use it or disown it. Learn from it or purge it from memory. Torch it or shred it or bury it. 

Do whatever they will with it.

Just never repeat it.

At least, not if playoffs are within their scope of imagination.

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FLAMES EXTRA - BACKLUND'S JOURNEY

Centre's tough path to the NHL helped him succeed

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GeorgejohnsonCH / CalgaryFlames.com

The usually affable Jim Playfair in full vent mode is a man to be afforded a wide berth (for verification, see YouTube video of his double-stick-break, gasket-blowing tirade of March 27, 2010).

"He was this close to my face,'' Mikael Backlund is recalling, holding the palm of one hand up to touch the tip of his nose. "And he was yelling at me. I mean, yelling at me.

"I don't know how long it lasted. Felt like 10 or 15 minutes.

"'Spoiled! Never make it to the NHL!' All that. He really ripped into me.

"I was devastated."

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